Saturday, October 3, 2015
Relate's new survey The Way We Are Now 2015 reveals that 50% of us rarely or never argue. It certainly seems like encouraging news. But is conflict really something we should avoid? Or is it just part of a healthy and communicative relationship? The answer really depends on the kinds of arguments you’re having.
Different types of arguments
Arguments can be like storms – enough bad ones over a long period of time and it can really start to weather away at things.
If, when you argue, you find you’re returning to the same topics over and over again – neither of you willing to hear each others’ point of view and sometimes losing your tempers and saying things you regret - it’s not likely it’s doing any good for your relationship.
You may have got stuck in a conflict loop – repeating the same negative behaviors until they risk causing permanent damage. It’s important to break out of this, as it’s likely to cause resentment to build to a point where it’s hard to focus on anything else.
But if your arguments are only occasional – and they don’t spiral out of control – then you may not have anything to worry about.
Many counselors agree they’re more concerned about couples who say they never argue than ones who say they do occasionally – if a couple is never bickering, there’s a chance one of them is simply bottling everything up and making themselves very unhappy.
Although it may not be the most productive way of sharing problems, arguing can serve a useful purpose – in that it does usually involve both sides of a couple saying what’s on their mind.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every time you’re annoyed with your partner, you should shout at them. If you can avoid getting into a fight, you should.
So if you feel that a disagreement is about to escalate , you might find the following tips useful:
Take a moment. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just walk away from the situation until you’ve both calmed down. You may be able see things more clearly once you’ve had a bit of time to think. It’s usually a good idea to talk over differences when you’re not already feeling emotional or upset – and especially not during other arguments. This can minimize the risk of saying something hurtful and just making things worse.
Use ‘I’ phrases, not ‘you’ phrases. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Rather than phrasing your comments as attacks, talk about how you feel. That way, you’re taking responsibility for your own emotions rather than blaming everything on your partner. It can also be a good idea to comment more generally on the situation than on the people involved – that way, you can look at it as something to solve together.
Let go of things. A lot of conflict is caused by one or both partners being unwilling to forgive minor transgressions or holding onto things that have annoyed them. Adopting a generally forgiving attitude in your relationship can make things so much easier. This doesn’t mean letting your partner walk all over you – just letting bygones be bygones rather than allowing them stack up over time.
Communicate openly in general. The best place to head off an argument is before it even begins! That’s why open and honest communication in relationships is so important. If you want to talk to your partner about something, do it – don’t keep it hidden and expect them to know what’s wrong. Nobody is a mind reader, no matter how much we would like them to be.
How I can help:
Is arguing a problem in your relationship? Talk to Trina, call 202 657 6919 or email: trina@couplecounselingDC.com