21Apr

The Best Way to Argue with Your Partner

There is a couple on my couch. Sasha and Veronica have been arguing with each other for the past 10 minutes about how Veronica doesn’t want to go to Sasha’s parents house for the weekend, and Sasha feels hurt by that.

“I just don’t want to go, I’d rather just stay home and relax. Can’t you go without me?”
“I could go alone but I want you there! Sometimes you’re so selfish!”
“It’s just not worth the trouble. It’s such a hassle. “
“But we would be doing it together! It’s not that hard.”

Sasha and Veronica argue by stating their desires and rebutting their partner’s desires. This is how we are taught to argue for getting something we want. It has been ingrained in us through media, movies, watching our parents and relatives argue with their loved ones, and more. This may be an effective method of arguing with a store manager about their return policy, but when it comes to talking this way to our partners it often feels like we are dismissing their feelings and needs. Communicating to our partners the same way we talk to the clerk at Papaya Republic isn’t congruent to a healthy relationship.

The way Sasha and Veronica are talking to each other is very dismissive of each other’s wishes. They are not acknowledging or hearing their partner, which makes their partner fight harder to feel heard. The art of good arguing comes from the mindset that you are in. If you see an argument as a means to an end for getting what you want it will always end in escalation, hurt feelings and/or resentment. Instead, we must look at arguments as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of our partner. When we approach an argument with curiosity instead of contempt we can navigate our differences as a couple much more effectively. But what does curiosity in the face of disagreement look like?

“Okay, well… what makes you not want to go to my parents’ house?”
“Well the packing is a hassle and I work so hard during the week. I just want the weekend to relax.”
“Okay, I can understand that. Are there any other reasons?”
“I mean, no – I like your parents. I really do; it’s just when I don’t get relaxation time during the weekend I feel so drained at work the next week and it feels miserable.”

When Sasha began to ask genuine questions about Veronica’s feelings about the trip and her reasons for not wanting to go, Veronica opened up and felt safe really exploring her feelings. It was difficult for Veronica to open up before because she felt attacked and like there was no room to discuss what she wanted.

“What about you? I’d like to know why it’s important to you that I go with you.”
“Well, because… I still want to spend the weekend with you. I really enjoy our time together but I also need to visit my parents and I don’t want to have to sacrifice anything. “
“Oh, I wasn’t really aware of that part of it. I really want to spend the weekend with you too, Sasha.”

At this point the couple haven’t reached an agreement on how to handle the conflict, but they are able to be open and understanding of each other’s positions. When a couple is able to do this, their chance of the discussion escalating into an argument decreases because they feel understood and heard. Often times, we raise our voice, storm out or shut down in response to feeling attacked or misunderstood. When we approach with curiosity, we can make a better effort to avoid those types of argument escalation.

Another key concept for better arguing is situational and emotional awareness. We will often raise our voice, storm off or shut down as an emotional response. These responses are not something we have complete control of when they are triggered and are more easily managed preemptively. Think about a time when you knew a disagreement would happen. Perhaps going shopping is a hot zone for an argument, you can tell your partner is in an off mood, or whenever you bring up Uncle Eddie. Knowing these situations are primed for disagreements or hurt feelings can be your advantage in an argument because you are then able to approach with curiosity before harsh feelings bubble up. Think, “Hey hon, is something on your mind today?” vs. “What’s your problem lately?”

Approaching with curiosity and emotional awareness are fantastic foundations of better arguing with your partner. To build upon that foundation and traverse the difficulties of communicating effectively with your partner please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kaitlyn Farrell