Movies about time loops can be a lot of fun to watch, but feeling like you're living in one because you're still having the same argument with your partner over and over again, Groundhog Day style? Yeah, not so much. If you feel like you and your SO are trapped in a cycle of bickering or fighting about the same things ad nauseum, learning to argue with your partner productively can be a total game changer.
According to Lisa Concepcion, a certified dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching, the difference between simply having an argument and arguing productively becomes clear when you change your perspective about your fight. Instead of thinking it's you versus your partner, both of you should try to tackle the problem together. "The idea is to commit to not arguing, but instead, to tackle any issue as a team. That's being productive instead of resistant and adversarial," Concepcion tells Elite Daily.
It's also important to set aside your ego and really focus on hearing your partner out, says Concepcion. "[It's all about] listening with the desire to understand the issue and... being faithful that every problem has a solution." Here 's how the experts say you can put this advice into practice.
Preparing To Argue Productively.
If there's a recurring issue in the relationship, or a situation arises that you know you're going to need to discuss with your partner, life coach Nina Rubin suggests taking a moment to get into the right headspace before launching into the discussion. “First of all, know what you’re arguing about,” Rubin tells Elite Daily. “Are you bickering about who did what and keeping tabs, or are you arguing about a process that you both legitimately disagree about?"
Rubin suggests identifying your main points, and being sure not to make personal attacks, call names, or cuss at each other. "It can also be helpful to have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve with the argument," says Rubin. “Do you want an apology or a change in behavior? What are you willing to do differently?” she asks. Above all, Rubin suggests making sure you're approaching the conversation with empathy. “It’s helpful to understand your own point of view and to be empathetic to theirs,” she adds.
Approaching The Conversation.
When you’re ready to talk to your partner, Concepcion offers advice on how to approach the subject depending on who's initiating the argument. If your partner's the one who's upset, Concepcion suggests opening the conversation by asking them what's causing their suffering. “This question puts the focus on the problem at hand and offers compassion and understanding," she says. "The person immediately feels validated, heard, and cared for. This one question allows open honest, productive discussion to begin."
If you're the one who's upset, Concepcion suggests approaching your partner by letting them know there's something you need to share with them that’s been bothering you. “Follow the model of ‘When XYZ happened, it triggered me and I chose to feel XYZ, and it's been on my mind. So, I wanted to share it to come up with an agreement,’” she says. This is effective because it’s not an accusation, but rather an invitation to help create a solution together.
What To Do If The Argument Becomes Unproductive.
Despite your best efforts, arguments can still feel unproductive. But don't give up! The experts assure you can still get things back on track. “It’s great to step away, but not everyone can do that,” says Rubin. “Some people like to solve their problems at once. If you need space but your partner needs to solve it immediately, offer that you need to step away for 10 minutes. Get water and clear your head. If you need more time, set clear boundaries and promise what you can keep. If you need to talk tomorrow instead, be sure to circle back about the issue the next day."
Concepcion adds that it can be helpful to pause and then reaffirm that the real purpose of the argument is to find a solution together. “Breathe and remind them, and yourself, that this is about being happy, not right,” she says.
Learning to fight productively is ultimately a process and a practice. As the experts say, it's all about refocusing your intentions from "winning" to you and your partner winning together. If it takes a little time to get there, that's OK. Keep trying until your discussion style starts to feel more natural. Before you know it, you and your SO will be breaking out of the argument time-loop together.
Lisa Concepcion, certified dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching
Nina Rubin, life coach