Ground Rules for a Healthy Argument

30 Jan

Even the best of relationships have their share of arguments and fights. It’s a misconception that arguments are all bad. Arguments are both healthy and necessary for two people to understand each other and create growth in their relationship

All arguments need not be stressful. Done sensitively it can be a way to work through challenges which can eventually strengthen a relationship.

What matters is not how often we argue with our partner but how we say what we say when we are upset. Does it leave one of the partners feeling resentful, bitter or misunderstood is the key question we need to ask ourselves.

Arguments begin when one partner feels his needs are not addressed or his feelings are not attended to. He lashes out in anger which hides the sadness and vulnerability he is actually feeling. The person who gets yelled at usually yells back or withdraws or mentally detaches from the other. Either of these can fan the flames of conflict which then escalates into a full blown argument.

Learning to fight fair is far more important than trying to avoid having a fight or argument.

These are a few absolute ‘No – No’s during an argument

# Trivializing – Do not minimize your partners feeling [ “…. You are just over-reacting; it wasn’t so bad…”]

# Blaming – Not owning up to your part of the fight [“…. I said this because you did this first…. “]

# Invalidating – Rejecting or Judging the way your partner is feeling. [“Its wrong to feel like that……”]

# Bringing in artillery from past fights – [“Last week you did X and then you promised …..’]

# Name – Calling [“what an ungrateful **** you are …”]

# Putting down – Shaming your partner [ “…. There you go …crying …That’s all you know…”]

# Using ‘Always; Never’ [“you always do this or you never do this ….”]

# Bringing the ‘But” into the sentence. [“…I know you are tired but you could have….”]

# Threatening – Hurtful threats incite anger and are hard to forget or forgive [“if you do this …..i will take the kids to my mothers house…”]

Anger sometimes makes one say hurtful things to their partner and get at their vulnerability. That is unfair and immature. How a couple handles disagreements affect the health of their relationship.

A few tips on how to resolve an argument without any emotional injury

# Empathy. The one important thing to have during an argument is Empathy. Empathy says ….i do not agree with you but I am willing to listen to you and understand from where you are coming’. When you are empathetic towards your partner, he/she feels understood, calms down and the overall tension is defused.

# Communicate clearly how you feel. Don’t just talk about what your partner has done. Talk of your feelings. Use ‘I feel’ more than ‘You did’ statements. Sentences that begin with …’I feel hurt when you don’t ask me where I want to go on a vacation….’addresses feelings which put both partners in a place where repair is possible.

As you begin to empathize and communicate clearly the conversation changes in nature – you begin to talk less and listen more. Its at this point that you begin to understand and address the needs of your partner – needs that lie hidden behind all the shouting …..needs that are otherwise difficult to express.

# If the arguments start to escalate, if tempers fly or harsh words are flung at each other then ……its ‘Time Out’. This is not quitting or sulking; its pressing pause to cool off for a while. It helps because it allows you and your partner to calm down and maybe  a little later come up with a strategy to resolve the matter.

Couples who go through their conflicts and arguments and move into a more harmonious existence, share greater intimacy and mutual respect for each other.

Conflict is a given; You are two different people with unique personalities, thoughts and opinions. There are three entities in a relationship – you, your partner and your relationship … and its important to watch out for the health of all three.

It’s the way couples deal with their disagreements that make or break a relationship.

Couple Counselling can help identify negative patterns of communication which have eroded the quality of interactions between a couple and help them learn new skills to recognize and resolve conflict.



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