Do you know the difference between healthy and unhealthy arguments in a relationship? The answer could be a matter of life or death for your relationship and for you!
Seriously. Last week, the Daily Mail ran an article with the title, "How Arguing With Your Partner Could TREBLE Your Risk Of Dying Young." It turns out that Danish research connects frequent patterns of unhealthy arguments in personal and work relationships with premature death. In fact, those who argue regularly in their personal relationships had about 50 to 100 per cent likelihood of dying from stress induced high blood pressure or heart disease.
Have you ever considered the toll your unhealthy arguments are taking on your health? Maybe it's time to explore the nature of your arguments.
Of course, some degree of healthy arguments are important. Think about the power of debate. When two people present their opposing views in a respectful and passionate way, understanding flows back and forth. Each party may discover something new so long as each remains open to learn something from the other.
I've longed for this kind of healthy arguing in my own marriage. But for most of our 26 years, we were stuck in some pretty unhealthy patterns. I married a trial lawyer who rocks in court as an arguer extraordinaire, but who can be hell on wheels in an at-home argument. He rarely backs down at work or in personal life. Given that I'm rather stubborn, it took years for us to recognize that our arguments had become frequent and often strayed into unhealthy territory.
Here are 8 signs of unhealthy arguments that I wish I'd known when our love story started:
- The Need To Win Fuels The Argument. When one of us needs to win, the other becomes defensive. It's a fight to the finish. One victor stands while the relationship loses. Our "we" becomes lost in "me."
- We Lose The Ability To Take Turns. When the back and forth flow of opinion and discussion stops, adversaries emerge. One of us can feel like a witness being badgered by the prosecuting attorney. A previously healthy argument becomes an unhealthy power play.
- We Lose The Ability To Truly Listen To Each Other. When we tune each other out, we get lost in our own personal agendas. We listen only for a pause to speak our part and we ignore what the other is saying. Understanding flies out the window.
- We Jump In And Cut The Other Off. When we start interrupting each other, we demonstrate our lack of respect. Blatant disrespect eliminates the possibility of an effective compromise or an agreement to disagree.
- Rising Anger Enters The Argument. If we don't recognize and control our individual anger, raging emotions hijack a previously healthy argument. We use tones and words that may demean and hurt. We deviate from the rational platform of our disagreement.
- Our Voices Rise And Our Tones Become Harsher. This is a sign that we're entering fight to the finish mode. The battle of ideas (original premise of the argument) becomes a battle of partners. As tempers fly, it's him versus me.
- We Argue About The Same Things In The Same Way. It's argument déja vu. Why? Because we've steadfastly refused to accept our unchanging difference on this issue. And we're not curious to understand each other's view. We're beating a dead horse, and our relationship is taking the hit.
- Neither Will Step Away From The Argument. There are some things that we will not agree on. Ever. So when we forget this, a healthy repartee can easily devolve into an angry verbal war. No one wins these arguments, and the relationship loses.
This is what I've learned from my relationship with the man of my dreams. When we are stuck in unhealthy arguments, our lives are nightmares. But just like a nightmare, the power of an unhealthy argument fades the longer we are away from it. When you spend time thinking about other things, you will be able to move past the argument and get your relationship to a better place.
If unhealthy arguments have you trapped in a relationship nightmare, I encourage you to reach out for help. A relationship counselor or coach can help you wake up to healthier arguments. If you're in Northern Virginia, contact me, I've been in the trenches, and I'm here to help. For instant help to jump start relationship change, grab my FREE guide, How to Make Your Relationship Work.
Now over to you: How do you draw the line between healthy and unhealthy arguments?
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