A wise person once said a happy couple will never argue. Well, that person wasn’t all that wise because it simply isn’t true. Every couple will experience tension and have arguments during the course of their relationship, it’s only natural. Just because you have a disagreement doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. Arguing isn’t always unhealthy, it’s all about how you manage the arguments.
How do you communicate with your partner when things start to get heated? How you respond can change the course of your relationship.
What’s the difference between poisonous arguing and a healthy argument? If you’re arguing productively there is light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a visible end. You know why you are having an argument and you are arguing in an attempt to resolve it. This argument isn’t about anger, it’s a disagreement of values and you’re arguing it out to determine where the compromise lies. It might be about where you want to live, it could be about how you want to raise children. The point is healthy arguments don’t involve name calling or insults, you don’t feel the need to devalue or belittle each other. You listen to each other, you engage in compromise and problem-solving. You can empathize with each other and still recognize you want both parties to be happy. The most important part of productive arguing is compromise.
You have to give a little and let go of something you really want and your partner has to do the same as well. It may be at a different point, in a different argument, but it’s all about give and take.
This is an argument when you get dirty. You feel defensive and a result you lash out and get critical. It’s ugly. It’s a blame game, and it’s not healthy. When you start to argue using the word you repeatedly, then you’re in trouble. These types of arguments tend to spiral out of control because there is no end. You’re not arguing about something specific anymore, it’s now about slinging mud at each instead. You argue until you’re both exhausted, you give up, it’s unresolved, and in no time it’s back to bite you again. This time it’s worse, though, because the resentment from the last argument has had time to build and you’re in a negative argument loop.
Flipping the Switch
So, if you find yourself stuck in a poisonous argument, how can you break the cycle and flip the switch and transform it into a healthy one? Take a break. Agree with your partner that ultimately, you both want the other to be happy, but you need to park the conversation and revisit it when you are both calm. You haven’t left it open-ended, you agree when to sit down and discuss it again. In the meantime, you can really think about what points you’re willing to compromise on and understand how to communicate more clearly. Remember, your partner’s happiness is as important as your happiness. When you think of it like that, you should be able to find a resolution.
If you still can’t figure it out together, then a therapist can help. There is no stigma in therapy. It also doesn’t have to be a reactive step; many people proactively attend couples counseling because having a sounding board is productive.