Everyone is unique, so the two partners in a couple are also different. It’s impossible for the two to always have shared ideas, so sooner or later, the time will come when an argument will arise between them. And it’s good that this is the case. Think about it, if at some point one of the partners becomes anxious or depressed and thinks through this emotionally disturbing situation, should the other support him in his views or should he shout for balance? This is why there must be adversarial discussions in a healthy relationship when we don’t resonate with each other’s views. And it’s not always necessary to reach a common denominator; the two can stick to their differences, and the important thing is to find a way to adapt them harmoniously to the relationship. We suggest some strategies to limit arguments with your partner and turn them into constructive discussions.
Make a list of reasons for staying in the relationship
This list is handy both as a personal analysis and as a reference point when we feel that everything is going to fall apart when it comes to the couple.
This list should include all the (sincere) reasons for staying in the relationship (even though sometimes they may be just goals), and it should also include the weak areas and the vulnerabilities of the relationship.
The first part is valuable when we argue, as we need to keep it in mind before we make any over-the-top, angry gestures.
The second part of the list is helpful because it guides us to identify problems in the relationship, know what we want to solve, and where we can work to strengthen the couple.
“Never a reproach” – Ileana Vulpescu, The Art of Conversation
It’s straightforward, in the beginning, to start blaming instead of focusing on solving the problem that started the conflict.
Reproaches divert the topic of the argument to areas that are impossible to resolve. Reproaches are a trap that we would do well to avoid in any debate or adversarial discussion.
Avoid saying “never,” “always,” and “every time.”
These words turn our statements into lies. Of course, it’s not true that “never…”, “every time…” or “always…”, because otherwise, the relationship wouldn’t have lasted a day.
But, when nervous, we all tend to exaggerate. These words divert the discussion from its essential subject and take it into a sensitive and complicated to control area, in which the partner, upon hearing statements containing these words, will go on the defensive and either defend himself or withdraw. Neither of these behaviors will have a constructive effect.
Focus: arguing is not about hurting your partner but about resolving the conflict between you
Focus on solving the problem and not on hurting your partner. When we discuss, in addition to the tendency to bring up blame and throw blame into the other person’s arms, we also have the drive to make our partner suffer. A tendency to hurt them, even if we love them. This is a form of reflexive defensiveness that we have displayed since childhood.
In an adversarial discussion, we need to structure our arguments and conclusions, not hurt our partners.
Don’t let grievances pile up.
For lack of time, lack of availability, and lack of favorable conjunctures, many of us tend to leave grievances unresolved, in the idea that we will resolve them later or the solution will come by itself. But it doesn’t. So grievances pile up, frustrations grow, and by the time the argument starts, we are already a bomb that has exploded, a barrel full of tensions that no longer fit and all need to be taken out.
Obviously, in an argument/dispute, we will not be able to resolve a whole list of grievances over time.
This is why it is ideal not to let problems and needs pile up but to discuss them just when they arise and when the context is the real and most appropriate one.
Don’t leave the discussion prematurely; answer all your partner’s questions.
Whether you leave the discussion and say you want to close it or even walk away or choose not to answer all of your partner’s questions, both are forms of ignoring. And we already know that missing is hurtful to your partner, and even more, they may mistake it for not caring. So neither attitude will bring anything good or constructive to the discussion.
If you have offended yourself, admit your mistake
All people make mistakes, but they better not be irreparable mistakes. Be careful not to say words you can never take back. Some words can touch an old wound or create new, deep wounds that may never be forgotten. It’s not enough to “I’m sorry,” but a broader explanation, a thorough dissection of the mistake that proves they were words spoken in anger.
Don’t talk in anger, remember the list of those good things that keep you in the relationship and don’t lose sight of what the real purpose of the discussion is.