This Is The Wrong Way To Argue In A Relationship, According To Experts
No relationship is perfect. No, not even your friend Lisa's, that annoying BFF you have who pretends she and her boyfriend have never been in a single fight. (They have.) Arguing in a relationship is bound to happen — to everyone. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Or rather, there are ways that are healthy and unhealthy.
I once had a boyfriend I fought with all the time, and TBH, it was one of the best relationships I've ever been in. That's because he and I were completely honest with one another all the time about our feelings, and we didn't withhold anything in from each other. Eventually, our fights became arguments, our arguments because discussions, and our discussions became short, constructive conversations about how we could help each other and work toward the common goal of improving our relationship. Through arguing, we were able to eventually find a productive and kind language with each other that worked.
Then, there was the guy with whom I never fought, and while you might think that sounds great on the surface, it actually wasn't good at all. Neither of us were being authentic with our needs or emotions — we were just fakin' it. We had no communication skills with one another except to feign constant happiness and build up internal resentment. And then, one day, all of our buried annoyances exploded to the surface. We got in a huge argument, broke up, and never talked again. (I mean, it's not like we were gonna work our way through it — we had no conflict resolution skills with one another, right?)
While you might not realize it, arguing is actually an important and delicate art that can make or break your relationship. So make sure to avoid these common mistakes in the way you argue with your partner. Because if you're going to try to succeed in love, you have to know how to fight fair.
1. Trying To Win
When it comes to fighting, there are no winners or losers. "The goal is not to 'win' as if you were in the finals of a JV debate team in high school. The goal is for the other person to understand your point of view and adjust their behavior if the situation ever happens in the future," says Alessandra Conti, celebrity matchmaker at Matchmakers In The City. "When you adjust your goal from winning to understanding, it makes your delivery a lot less aggressive and more empathetic," she continues.
A large part of this comes down to the language you use when fighting. Conti says to "be [cognizant] to use the phrase 'it made me feel' or 'you made me feel *emotion* when you did this,' as opposed to 'I can't believe you are so insensitive.'" The latter phrase can be polarizing and put your partner on the defense.
Additionally, someone who needs to "win" every argument might not be marriage material. Lori Salkin, SawYouatSinai.com senior matchmaker and dating coach, explains,
If someone tells me that the person they are dating cannot even listen in an argument and respect that the other person has an opinion, or hear the other person's opinion, I would tell them that this is not a person ready for marriage and certainly not someone they should be dating.
2. Arguing Irrationally
Feeling furious? Well, maybe take some time to calm down first before talking to your partner. You don't need to have conversations when you're at the height of your anger.
"The phrase 'never go to sleep angry' is actually a massive myth when it comes to arguing in a relationship. Studies show that if you fight as soon as something upsets you, you are coming from a place of heightened anger, and are reacting irrationally," says Conti. "It is important to take at least two hours to cool off before engaging in a heated discussion with your SO."
So rather than immediately hashing out the issue with your partner, Conti advises you to first "feel those emotions, and either write out a letter to your SO (that you will not be sending), go for a drive to pick something up from Trader Joe's, or take your dog out for a walk." She continues that it's crucial for you to spend those moments after a heated argument getting "out of your head" and "out of the situation" so you can approach the situation with more "clarity and objectivity."
This advice probably could have gotten me out of a lot of apologies in the past. When it comes to fighting, a little initial self-restraint can do you good.
3. Losing Your Temper
Don't fight dirty. There are some things you might say that you can't take back. One time, while fighting, an ex told me, "You think you're such a good person, but you're not," and I never truly got over it. Call me a b*tch all you want, but did you really just undermine my character while you were angry? Yeah, things never got better after that.
"Whether it's yelling or saying things to intentionally hurt the other person, you cannot take back how or what things were said in the heat of the moment of an argument, no matter how much you apologize, because the other person will not forget that you could [let] things escalate to the point of losing your temper," says Salkin. "It is very important to treat your significant other as an equal (not a child that needs to be admonished) and approach arguments calmly, no matter how frustrated, confused, angry, or hurt you are."
Remember that the goal in fighting is to eventually make up, so choose your words wisely.
4. Coming With A Laundry List
When it comes to fighting, discuss issues individually. Don't have big, blowout, unspecific fights about your entire relationship. That just feels like you're being attacked or nagged by your partner, and that won't help anything.
"An argument over being late or forgetting something is not the type to add the entire laundry list of all the things that bother you about your significant other or the relationship. Focus on the issue at hand and handle that," says Salkin. "No one likes to feel like they are being attacked with an entire list of criticisms, and a simple disagreement can turn ugly quickly by insulting your significant other with a barrage of complaints."
Arguing is bound to happen in any relationship. If you never fight, then someone isn't being authentic with their feelings. However, there are ways to fight that are healthy and will help you have better communication in your relationship, and then, there are ways to fight that will actually tear you and your partner apart. If you're engaging in any of these negative fighting behaviors, try to work on the conflict resolution that you have with your partner. You'll be all the better for it in the long run.
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