In any close-knit relationship, arguing, fussing and fighting is pretty natural…almost a given. When two people are closely linked or intimately connected, arguing is a form of communication that simply comes with the territory.
Whether or not you master this communication, however, is what determines if your relationship is meant to last forever…or for right now. If you care enough about your partner and want a long-term relationship, arguments shouldn’t be anything to fear or worry about – unless those arguments become abusive. In fact, some arguments can serve as healthy barometers to test the strength of your relationship. Do you really want to work it out and stick together?
Here are some healthy, productive ways you can disagree in order to make your relationship stronger…and last longer.
Most people avoid confrontation like the plague. No one likes to feel uneasy, and most times couples avoid touchy subjects for fear of their partner’s reaction. However, if something is bothering you, or there is an issue that needs to be addressed in your relationship – speak up. Okay…so you may argue about it, but so what? Conflict is normal, even healthy. No one is perfect and no two people are alike or think the same on every single subject. The differences between you give you a chance to learn something about the other person, and ultimately you may also learn something about yourself. Debating or disagreeing on a topic that is crucial to your relationship can bring clarity to a situation, show you where you need to do more work or where you have an opportunity to grow. Running away from problems don’t make them go away, so deal with your issues and concerns head-on, and move past them.
When going at it in the heat of an argument, it’s easy for the spat to shift away from the issue at hand and get very personal. If you feel your blood boiling and you can’t control your tongue, walk away until you can disagree in a respectful way. There should be no name calling, pushing buttons, hitting below the belt or shots fired. When you do those things, not only do you have to deal with what you’re actually arguing about, but now you have to carry the burden of hurting someone’s feelings. Words, once uttered, cannot be taken back…and the bruised feelings left behind may take a long time to heal. When you truly care for someone, you should be able to state your case or disagree without making someone else feel small or unloved. Watch your mouth.
This is hard to do when two people are arguing. In fact, that’s usually how people know they’re in an argument…because someone is screaming or yelling. Take it down a notch and speak in a calm voice. I know it’s easier said than done when passion and anger are involved, but once someone starts yelling, no one is being heard. All there is is noise. If you find yourself in an argument and the other person raises his or her voice, keep yours calm. That may help bring them down a decibel or two. If they continue to scream, suggest that you both continue the conversation at another time when both of you can use your inside voices. This way you don’t react by yelling and the situation doesn’t escalate – and your neighbors don’t call the cops. Keeping a soft voice and tone helps you both to focus on the issue, not the noise.
It’s hard to keep your mouth shut when you feel strongly about something and have a lot to say. Sometimes we talk over the other person because we fear that we won’t get a chance to get our point across, and that may cause the other person to become defensive or unresponsive. Give the other person a chance to speak their peace first. Focus your attention on them and listen quietly. Once they’ve finished, acknowledge what they said by repeating it and let them know that their feelings are valid, even if you don’t agree. Never tell someone how they ”should feel” or how they should think. Once they’ve finished, you can give your response in a calm, respectful manner. Both people have a point of view, and if you love your partner, you should want to hear it. It doesn’t mean you have to concede or agree, it simply means you should respect them.
Focus on a Solution, Not Who is Right
A fight can only end when a solution is found, so identify the problem and move towards a resolution. Sometimes people are only interested in winning the argument, not in finding a solution to the problem – which usually leads to fighting over the same thing repeatedly. Identify the problem by giving specifics rather than making sweeping statements like “you always ignore me” or “you never consider how I feel.” Ask direct questions, and look for points of agreement where you can make concessions so that neither of you feel attacked. Ask for suggestions to a resolution or where you can make compromises. This shows that you’re willing to try to make your relationship work, not interested in keeping score. Love is not a competition, it’s compromise.
Don’t Go to Bed Angry
Sometimes you may not be able to find a solution or come to an amicable agreement after an argument. And that’s okay. For the time being, agree to disagree. Some arguments can be silly or petty, in which case you should kiss and make up and move on. If it’s a serious issue that requires a resolution, however, then work on it until you get to a place of workable compromise. If you can’t do that, then perhaps seeing a counselor, religious adviser or therapist can help you move past your issue – but the goal should always be to make peace. Depending on how severe your disagreement is, you may need to give in a little in order to bring peace back to your relationship. Giving in doesn’t mean you’ re wrong, or that the other person is right, or that your feelings don’t matter. It simply means that winning isn’t the prize, your partner is. Sometimes you simply have to ask yourself if what you’re arguing over is worth losing sleep over. If it isn’t, then let it go.