5 Ways To Disagree With Your Partner Without Having A Full-Blown Fight
I have an amazing reputation among my exes and husband, and it's not for the reason you think. It's not for amazing head, a magic vagina or mastering the five tips that magazines say will make a man never leave me. It's for the fact that I have never had a shouting match with any man in any relationship, ever.
Many people find this hard to believe, and by “many people,” I mean family and friends. I'm a woman who absolutely must speak her mind at any cost. I have been told by everyone — from my mother to a corporate director — that I am far too blunt for my own good.
Censorship? What's that? I cannot compute.
But when it comes to relationships, I've learned a thing or two each time about how to disagree about virtually anything, without ever having a fight. Here's how I've done it:
1. I never address the issue at the time it happens.
When your partner says or does something that absolutely drives you mad, you want to yell at him or her. Even if you're hurt for 10 minutes, give it an hour. You'll just be mad instead (or maybe that's just me).
Whatever the case, I've learned to keep my mouth shut at this point. I let my husband enjoy hours and hours of suspicious silence, where he's wondering what the unlikely f*ck is going on. I'm suddenly quite interested in carpet designs and the sounds of water dripping from the tap.
I've become so good at this that sometimes he – and the men before him – had absolutely no idea anything was wrong, until I decided to make it known. This prevents me from unleashing the full force of my wrath, and it gives me time to cool off and address the issues later. At this point, the problem is no longer an immediate hurt, and it's therefore less important.
Sometimes, during this waiting period, your partner will also realize he or she did something wrong, and will fix it without any need for you to intervene. This is the best case scenario, but don't get mad if it doesn't happen.
2. I don't let the issues pile up.
I take anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks before I address an issue. But it will be addressed, and usually when he least expects it.
It is good to give yourself some time to think and plan what you mean to say in the best way possible, but don't wait so long that you only become more and more angry as the behavior continues. Don't be intimidated by the potential for an awkward conversation, either. Of course it's going to be uncomfortable. You can count on that.
Just remember that not doing anything about it is even worse. Then, everything else that he or she does will make you angry, and you'll be snapping at each other along the road to a failed relationship in no time.
3. I think before I speak.
This goes without saying, but often times, the only thinking we do before speaking is to conjure up the most hurtful things we can hurl at the person we might be planning our forever with.
But while I'm boiling in silence, I'm also asking myself some key questions. Did he really do something that warrants my anger, or am I just blowing it out of proportion? Is he the cause of my anger, or am I angry because he unknowingly stirred up old wounds that have nothing to do with him?
Most of the time, the answers to these questions cause me to re-evaluate the situation before he even notices I'm upset. I realize he meant no harm, and that maybe I've read too much into it. If I still believe he's done wrong, I begin to plan for the conversation that I know we will likely have about the issue.
4. I take the business meeting approach.
The last man I dated before my husband had an insanely calm way of handling disagreements, so much so that I use a similar method in my marriage today. Whenever he sensed he had wronged me somehow, he would call and say, “OK, I know I did something. Tell me what it is.”
Once I had explained the wrong, he would acknowledge his own fault in the matter and show me where I may have made some wrongs, too. Then he would say, “Well, this is what I'm willing to do about the issue,” and he would lay out his plan for making amends.
When he was done, he would finish with, “Does that work?” For a week afterward, he would check in to see if the problem had been resolved, and all would be well again.
Needless to say, this worked great. Even when we broke up — after I found out on Valentine's Day that he had tried to hook up with my friend on an online dating site I didn't even know he had joined — there were no raised voices. I laid down the evidence, he admitted his wrongs, the relationship ended and he drove me back to my friend's house.
“Have a good evening,” he said sheepishly, as I exited the car. But since he was now a cheating ex-boyfriend and no longer worthy of my respect, I slammed his door and shouted, “F*ck off, Paolo*!”
It was the most fun I've ever had in any breakup. Great man.
5. Instead of just complaining about what's wrong, I ask and listen.
When our partners upset us, we often get the idea in our heads that they either do it on purpose or don't care. But sometimes, there is much more to the story than just that.
If your partner complains about your behavior or has a rebuttal for your complaint, then listen. What he or she has to say may give you an eye-opening perspective on the situation at hand, and you might just miss the opportunity for an easy fix if you don't give him or her that chance.
For instance, there was one particular favor my husband granted me quite frequently. Let's call it a “foot rub.” But for some reason, there was a point in our relationship when no matter how often I asked, the answer was always “no.” Or, he would just half-ass it.
It bothered me. I began to wonder if maybe there was something that had changed.
After a while, “foot rubs” were suddenly reinstated, but I could no longer enjoy them. Every time he did it, I spent the entire time worrying that I had inconvenienced him in some way, and that he was only doing it to keep the peace.
When I finally brought it up, he was half mad and half relieved. He was mad that I hadn't just brought it up before, and he was relieved that it wasn't what he thought it was. He had begun to form his own wrong suspicions about why I was no longer interested in these “foot rubs.”
“I noticed that,” he admitted, when I told him the issue. “I've been wondering about it for the longest time. I thought it was just me. Why didn't you say something before? That wasn't what it was at all.”
He explained, we laughed about it and then we moved on. We haven't had that problem since.
Disagreements are inevitable in any relationship, and if you don't have them, someone's hiding something. But it doesn't mean you can't have them amicably, without raised voices and emotions running high. I do.
*Name has been changed.