9 Red Flags In An Argument You Shouldn't Ignore, According To Experts


Being with someone can be total bliss. Having a partner means getting to divide chores, having someone to hang with and confide in, and having a person to shower you with love. On the flip side, the high stakes involved with bringing another person so closely into your life — including figuring out how to compromise (and on what issues) — can lead to a lot of disagreements. Fighting with your SO doesn't mean you should raise a white flag on the relationship, though. Not seeing eye-to-eye on everything is normal, but there are red flags in an argument that shouldn't be ignored.

So how can you tell the difference between the good kind of conflicts and the bad? It lies in the line between constructive and toxic. Productive debates are met with conflict-resolution. Butting heads is part of evolving as a unit. (In fact, never fighting could mean it's lust, not love.) But it's the way you handle resolving those issues that really matters. The big hints that you're doing it the healthy way? Lots of respect, listening, sharing, and understanding.

Spotting an unhealthy argument style can be more difficult, especially in the heat of emotionally-charged moments. I turned to experts to uncover the indicators of harmful quarrels that cannot be overlooked.

1. Hitting Below The Belt

Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, points to name-calling or trying to find the most hurtful thing to say as a danger sign. "All couples disagree, but if you or your partner feels the need to cause pain in order to feel heard, that can really do damage to the trust and safety in the relationship," she says.

Licensed psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher adds criticisms and contempt to the hard-hitting offenses. He says that when we fight, blood flows from our head to our core, which can cause a loss of focus and an onset of verbal diarrhea (i.e. saying things you'll regret or won't remember).

2. Throwing Around Accusations

"We all have fears and we all have insecurities, but when we accuse our partners of doing things, especially when they have not done them, we can do real harm to the relationship," says Richardson. Making accusations without having real facts to back them up just adds unwanted drama to any argument and relationship.

3. Not Listening

A partnership is likely to quickly erode if one or both partners don't feel heard. As a result of hashing something out together, your partner should understand why you were upset (and vice versa). If that isn't the case, you have yourself a problem. "Your partner doesn’t have to agree with your point of view on everything, but they should be able to at least hear you out and understand where you are coming from," Richardson explains.

Fisher adds in stonewalling as another major red flag, which is not only not listening, but actively shutting down and refusing to discuss issues. "This often makes the other partner pursue further and then you have a pursue/withdrawal dynamic, which can really harm the relationship," he says.

4. The Blame Always Sits On One Person

Always having to apologize is another thing to watch out for, says Richardson. If one partner is never owning up to their part, that puts a lot of pressure (and back-bending) on the other partner. That weight and sacrifice can build into huge resentment and repeat arguments.

5. A Backlog Of Negative Emotions

Dr. Grant H. Brenner, MD, psychiatrist, consultant, and psychoanalyst in NYC, says that bringing up problems from the past can result in a build up of negative emotion. "This is a sign that they are feeling betrayed and that there is a breach of trust, which could spiral out of control if not addressed immediately," he says.

6. Unrealistic Promises As A Solution

Following through on your proposed solutions to an argument is a huge part of resolution. "If someone makes unrealistic promises, either to deliver something that you know is not feasible, and especially if they promise to change in some way and don't have a solid plan for doing that, that is a sign that they are likely to disappoint you," Brenner suggests.

7. Dishing Out Threats

Your partner should never be threatening you or leaving you with definitive ultimatums. If they do start playing that card, listen up. "If someone mentions in passing that they are looking elsewhere but not seriously, where they start to become more and more unavailable and offer superficial reasons that don't hold water, don't blow it off," says Brenner. "There's a good chance that they're down-playing their desire to head to greener pastures, and they may even be deceiving themselves."

Your partner might not have bad intentions in carelessly dropping hints like this, but if they are expressing hesitation in your relationship or resistance toward it, it is important to take that into account and figure out what the deeper issues are.

8. Cries For Help

During an argument, if you partner goes so far as to allude to "desperation or hopelessness," Brenner says you shouldn't overlook that. "They may be very close to giving up and don't think that there's any benefit to make it worthwhile for them to continue to invest in you," he says.

9. Lashing Out Through Erratic Behavior

Lastly, LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., psychotherapist, author of Smart Relationships, and founder of Love Victory, says that if your partner lashes out by walking away, being in a huff, slamming doors, or using sarcasm to minimize issues, this is unhealthy behavior.

Of course, if you find your SO getting violent during arguments, it is time to seek distance and to remove yourself as quickly and as safely as possible. If you or someone you know may be dealing with domestic violence, highly-trained advocates are available 24/7/365 through The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

When people express concerns, both parties within the relationship should be there to listen to, support, and grow with one another to get through those challenges. At the end of the day, Wish says that staying solution-focused, rather than conflict-focused, is a healthy way to handle even your biggest disagreements.

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