Arguing can take a relationship to a higher level of understanding or it can erode trust and ruin a relationship completely. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people aren't taught how to disagree or fight fairly and often come from backgrounds with unhealthy conflict styles. Over time, how a couple argues can make or break their relationship and most people don't make changes until it's too late.
Are you arguing with your partner in ways that weaken or strengthen your relationship? If you find yourself arguing a lot with your partner, check out these 13 do's and don'ts for fighting:
1. Do Use "I feel" Statements
Consider these two statements:
"I feel sad and disappointed when you are out late and forget to call" vs. "It is wrong for you to forget to call me when you’re out late."
In the first example, you are explaining your feelings about a certain behavior. It is a gentler approach that is easier for your partner to agree with and get behind. It sounds ridiculous to argue with someone's feelings. Explaining hurt in terms of how it affected you is a much more effective technique than blaming or placing judgment statements on your partner's behavior.
2. Don't Get Violent
This one sounds like a no brainer, but in the heat of the moment it can become hard to manage your anger. If you are so angry that you feel like throwing things or your partner has started down this slippery slope, it's time to take a step back and consider getting one or both of you counseling.
3. Don’t Use the Words “Always” and “Never”
It isn’t fair to say that someone always or never does something. Additionally, using a statement like “you ALWAYS…” puts the other person on the defensive and causes the argument to go to times when they didn’t do whatever you are accusing them of. This complicates the argument and makes it more difficult to resolve.
Remove the words "always" and "never" from your argument vocabulary.
4. Do Stay On Topic
If you're upset about something, don't enlarge the argument to include a bunch of extra situations that don't pertain to the issue at hand. Don't bring up the time four months ago when your partner did something that you never told them about. Stick to the topic and time frame at hand.
5. Don’t Name-Call, Ever
Resolve to never, ever call your partner a name or allow him or her to do this to you. If this is a problem for you two, discuss ground rules for fighting with your partner when you two are not arguing.
6. Don't Hit Below the Belt
We all know that thing that we could say in a heated moment that will strike back and seriously hurt our partner’s feelings. It can be tempting to say it, to win the argument, but don’t. Also, it isn't fair to bring up other problems that happened long ago and/or don’t relate directly to the issue at hand.
7. Don’t Pick Fights
Don't bait your partner into arguing because you're in a foul mood or it's Tuesday or anything else. Do not attempt to gain leverage in the relationship by arguing with little throwaway comments your partner makes. Cultivate an easy-going attitude about the small stuff.
8. Do Repeat Back Your Partner's Statements to Check for Understanding
When you're disagreeing with your partner, try to check that you understand their statement by restating what they’re saying, using a statement like this:
"Am I understanding you correctly when I believe you’re saying X?" or "What I'm hearing you say is X, is that right?" This technique helps to diffuse tension and show that you are listening. Take care to do this gently and sincerely, so that your partner doesn’t feel like you are actually mocking them.
9. Do Consider The Core Issues Behind the Argument
Often an argument that begins over one thing is not actually about what happened, but something else. It's important to examine why you're really arguing and talk about those feelings and emotions rather than the specific behavior that is the tip of the iceberg.
Look for violations of boundaries and feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness, and respect as reasons why your partner might actually be upset. If you try to get to the bottom of the problem and address the bottom line reasons someone is upset, it ends the argument much faster than making a chart of times and dates where the toilet-seat business was done correctly. This technique also allows a disagreement to strengthen your bond by increasing both of your understanding of the other person’s feelings.
10. Do Give Your Partner the Benefit of the Doubt
Do not automatically chalk your partner’s behavior up to bad intentions toward you. When you are addressing a problem, it's best to start with your feelings about the issue. Your partner will feel more honored and valued if you don’t make it sound like they were trying to do something on purpose to hurt you.
Unless you're dating a real jerk, it is most likely that whatever you are upset about was not intentional on their part.
11. Don't Always Agree
Sometimes it's important to have a discussion about your wants and needs. If you are too agreeable, you can eventually become so resentful that the relationship falters. It's natural that two people will not always agree. Even though arguing can be unpleasant (less so if you both resolve to fight fairly), it's more difficult in the long run to put your needs in second place.
12. Do Pick Your Battles
Be careful about what you choose to become upset with and confront your partner about. Picking your battles is not only choosing the things you get irritated about or feel the need to confront your partner with, but choosing the time and place you argue as well.
For example, if you are upset with someone, waking them up in the middle of the night to confront them isn’t the most likely way to give you a well-reasoned discussion. Neither is confronting them when either of you is hungry, angry or tired.
13. Don't Keep Score
Keeping score in your relationship is a really dangerous thing to do. If you are constantly stacking your arguments with other issues that you remember from months ago, your partner can never get the benefit of the doubt. No one should have to feel that they are having the same fight over and over again. Resolve to let disagreements die after they have been handled and avoid bringing them up again.
I hope this helped you to fight more fairly with your partner. If you feel like your guy is pulling away and aren't sure what to do, find out here with a free copy of my book Why Men Lose Interest and daily email series.
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