Finger-pointing and constantly airing old grievances aren't always the most effective ways to solve disagreements between you and your partner. In fact, few things are more annoying than hearing them bring up something you did months ago. "Are we really still arguing about this?" you might think. If your partner always holds grudges, actually getting issues resolved can be difficult. Typically, you can hash out your differences in the argument or work together to problem-solve, and that might end the beef. But, if your partner tends to hold on to any bad blood between you, then the problems you've faced in the past haven't truly been solved.
More than being irritating or frustrating, a grudge-holding partner might be causing long-term damage to your relationship. As couples therapist Dr. Gary Brown previously told Elite Daily, grudges mean unfinished business, and that "is analogous to rust," he said. "It slowly eats away at the core of your love."
So, how do you argue productively when it feels like you'll be d*mned if do and d*mned if you don't? Keriann Long, a marriage and family therapist, suggests making sure you and your partner have ground rules for how you handle conflicts. (Although, it's helpful to have that conversation when, you know, you're not arguing.) "Discuss as a couple how you would like to address difficult topics in the future," Long tells Elite Daily. "Set an intention to focus on the present issues when arguing." Agreeing that you two will avoid bringing up unresolved grievances from the past can also be helpful.
"If your partner continues to bring up past issues after agreeing to this, there is a good chance more healing work needs to be done," Long says.
Oftentimes, as Long explains, people hold tight to old insecurities because of unhealed wounds. They might not necessarily be mad at something that you did, or angry at a circumstance of your relationship. Sometimes, Long says, "The behavior that started the grudge triggered an old unhealed wound from an earlier life experience."
Putting yourself in your partner's shoes and considering how your partner was affected by the behavior that rekindled this resentment can be helpful, too. (If couples' therapy is appropriate and accessible, that can also help.) In general, Long recommends empathy when addressing disagreements in romantic relationships. If both partners are holding space for each other's thoughts and emotions, the anger can be diffused much more easily. "Arguments are the most productive when both partners have an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings," she adds.
Another argument best practice Long recommends is ensuring you are both calm when speaking to each other. You can pause the conversation if either partner gets "emotionally activated by the argument." It's actually better to stop and return to the topic when you and your partner have settled down. That way, neither you nor your partner get lost in the sauce, and a resolution can be reached.
Another best practice, Long says, is making sure the conversation stays on track. "It is helpful to stay focused on the main topic being discussed, so there is the possibility for resolution or progress around that issue," Long says. Additionally, if there are other problems that need to be addressed, take them one at a time. Set them aside until the main one is addressed.
Last but not least, try not to let any beef that you or your partner have with each other slip through the cracks. "Bring up areas of conflict as soon as possible, before resentment has built," Long urges. "Arguments are usually much more productive when the topic is brought up, before anger has escalated."
Just because your partner is the type to hold grudges, that doesn't mean your partnership is doomed. It's possible your problems can be solved by a few frank, focused conversations and an agreement on both parts to solve issues with compassion, first.