How to Argue With Your Partner
The other day, I was sitting outside on our front patio as the kids collected flowers, rocks, and twigs to do who knows what — most likely bring them in the house and forget about them. I heard a faint noise coming from somewhere, but I turned my head and couldn’t really see anything. The noise sounded like it was coming from a radio, people talking. A few minutes passed and the noise became louder. Just across the street from us was a young couple (no older than 25) clearly arguing with one another. The woman was pushing a stroller with a toddler sitting awkwardly in it. The man was walking away from her, swatting her outreached arms aside. His voice was muffled and low while his eyes darted around him, perhaps looking to see if people were watching. He clearly saw us and muttered something to the woman. She glanced over at us with an irritated look. I wanted to look away, but where could I look? I was getting irritated now. Here I was trying to enjoy a nice, sunny day with the kids and this couple had to interrupt my few minutes of tranquility. Her voice was louder than his and carried over to where I was sitting. I caught a few phrases: “You’re just like your father,” “You should just leave then.” I was surprised that this young woman had so much anger and frustration in her voice. It seemed like he was trying to calm her down, but that only made the situation worse. The toddler began to cry and that’s when my kids finally noticed the commotion. They ran over to me and asked me what was going on. I told them that this young couple had some problems and were arguing. “Why?” they asked. I didn’t have some profound answer for them except to say, “I don’t know.”
Disagreements are bound to happen in any relationship, but it’s how you deal with it that can elevate your relationship to a new level or sabotage the relationship in ways that cannot be restored.
Be a good listener. When partners don’t listen to one another, when they continually interrupt what the other person is saying, both parties feel a sense of disrespect. Listening to your partner’s side of the story will encourage them to also listen to your words when it’s your turn. Listening shows your partner that you care and that you’re both in a safe environment to work out your differences.
Stick to the facts and don’t attack on a personal level. If you’re upset that the toilet didn’t get cleaned again as your partner promised and you had to do it again, then let them know that you’re upset because the chores in the house are not being shared equally. Let them know how you feel by using phrases that begin with “I.” When you start with sentences that begin with “You do… ” or “You are…” you are taking part in the blame game. Resist the urge to attack your partner using words that are cruel, manipulative, and vindictive. Don’t tell your partner that he’s lazy like his sister or selfish like his mother. His family has nothing to do with the situation of why the chores are not being taken care of. When you use hurtful words to get a response out of someone, it often backfires and you create even more tension and a chasm between you. Don’t be critical or impulsive with your words during an argument. Criticism leads to defensiveness and anger. Carefully think about what you want to say without hurting the other person’s feelings. Callous words can be terribly abusive and can undermine any type of resolve you’re trying to attain.
Speak in a calm manner. Cursing and yelling is detrimental to any relationship. By raising your voice, you’re allowing your anger to overcome you. The message you’re sending is that you’re not willing to solve any problems, you only want your voice to be heard. Screaming creates a hostile environment, causing stress levels to rise. Using a calm, even tone reassures your partner that you want to to work it out with them.
Be honest with yourself and with your partner. When your partner does or says something that hurts your feelings, let them know immediately. By keeping your thoughts to yourself, you harbor these hurt emotions which can later transform to anger, bitterness and hatred. If you go around being angry at your partner without speaking to them, and then feel like they should know why you’re angry, you’re playing an unnecessary game. Your partner is not a mind reader. No one is. If you don’t speak up, how will they know what is wrong? Clearly your actions translate to being upset, but you need to communicate with your partner that you are upset and why you are upset.
Take a break. Sometimes, issues cannot be resolved in one hour. By walking away for awhile, by giving yourself some alone time, you will be able to re-evaluate the situation. Are you being calm, are you being critical, is your partner listening to what you’re saying? This time can be used to calm down, and figure out what words you can use so your partner can see your viewpoint. Your partner does not always need to agree with you, but he should be able to understand where you’ re coming from.
Don’t argue in front of the kids or in front of any audience. Children learn from what they see on a daily basis. If they are exposed to constant bickering, hateful words, and yelling matches, they will accept those experiences as a way of life and incorporate these actions and reactions into how they deal with their own situations. Arguing in public can be humiliating for either party and can cause even greater stress. Respect your relationship and your partner and ensure that you talk in a quiet, secluded environment where outside distractions can’t hinder the way you communicate with one another.
Holding a grudge and continuing to be bitter will damage your relationship. Be open with your partner when you communicate and be willing to forgive one another. Arguing fairly will help you realize and come to understand something new about your partner and yourself. As Carl Jung once said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Successful relationships are possible, but you have to be dedicated to working on them on a daily basis.