How To Stop 'He Said, She Said' Fights In Your Relationship

Photo: getty
he said she said communication

“He said, she said” has many meanings in today’s world. It plays a huge, and often unfair, role in determining whether harassment, abuse, or assault has occurred. But it can also create unpleasant exchanges in the best of relationships.

There is a saying that perception is reality. That isn’t to say that there is no such thing as verifiable fact. But without a completely objective measure, like an audio or video recording, it is impossible to establish. Unfortunately, many people, maybe even you, expend a tremendous amount of energy and emotion battling someone else’s perception.

RELATED: I Saved Myself From An Emotionally Abusive Man (And You Can Too)

I cannot tell you how often one person relating an event to me is interrupted by their partner with, “That’s not what happened!" or, "I didn’t say that.” The first person reiterates their recollection, their partner denies it again — continuing the "he said, she said" opposition — and things continue to spiral out of control, unless I step in.

While that works in my office, unless the couple understands that this "he said, she said" approach is always an exercise in futility, they will keep getting caught up in this unresolvable loop of seeking to be right — never getting to the heart of the issue and continuing to feel unheard and invalidated.

The truth is, you never experience an event or conversation the same way as another person.

More to the point, you will never really convince them they didn’t experience it the way they believe they did. There is always your version and their version of what happened. The objective fact is somewhere in the middle but, for all useful purposes, that doesn’t matter.

So how do you stop this power struggle associated with "he said, she said" inconsistencies?

Drop your end of the rope. Once you stop pulling against your partner, they will stop pulling against you. Then, and only then, can you have a real conversation.

The first step in this process is determining what is really going on.

You heard what you heard and experienced what you experienced. You don’t have to justify or defend it, but you do need to understand that it is subjective.

It is filtered through the lens of your physical, mental and emotional state in the moment and your past experiences, both with this person and everyone else you’ve encountered in your life.

What you hear isn’t necessarily what they said or meant.

That doesn’t mean you didn’t hear it that way. It is what you experienced. The question then becomes, now what? Without any more information, you will take action on what you believe occurred. And, therein, lies the road to ruin, or at least an argument.

But when you get sidetracked — by what was or wasn’t said, the tone it was or wasn’t said in, what was meant or not meant — you lose control of the situation and, often, of yourself. You’re convinced you’re “right." Your partner is convinced they are. Neither of you will give ground, so it turns into a loss for you, a loss for them, and ultimately, a big loss for your relationship.

RELATED: 3 Reasons You Did NOT Marry The Wrong Guy (Even If It Feels Like It Right Now!)

The antidote to "he said, she said" arguments is to STOP, FEEL, and THINK:

1. Stop.

As soon as you recognize the conversation is headed the wrong way, STOP talking. If you realize you made a wrong turn on the road, you wouldn’t keep driving away from where you’re trying to go. The same behavior makes no more sense in a conversation.

2. Feel.

Once you are no longer headed in the wrong direction, deal with the feelings that have been stirred up. What you understood your partner to say, the tone they used, or their facial expression/body language created a reaction.

Do you feel hurt, embarrassed, belittled, shamed, afraid, frustrated or vulnerable? If you feel anger, there is probably another emotion at the core that is more relevant.

3. Think.

The emotion you feel is the foundation for the story that you are telling yourself about what’s happening. It is the filter that determines what you pay attention to and remember. It is a reflection of what matters to you. But, it is only one possible interpretation.

What might some other ones be? When you can identify some, you have the option of choosing a different one. This gives you a way out of the "he said, she said" straight jacket.

A secondary, but no less important, question to ask is, “Why is it so important to be right?” If you are “right”, then your partner is automatically “wrong”. If you can have different perspectives, both of you can be “right." This stops the argument over what happened and allows you to move into the process of finding a resolution.

But that is a topic for another day.

RELATED: A 3-Step Approach To Controlling Anger Before It Gets Out Of Control

Lesli Doares is a therapist, couples coach, and the founder of a practical alternative for couples worldwide looking to improve their marriage without traditional therapy. Call Lesli at 1-919-924-0463 to schedule a free 1-hour consultation. If you want to learn more about how to stop settling for a “not bad” relationship, read 3 Secrets to a Kick-Ass Marriage today.