Getting into arguments with your significant other (or anyone for that matter) is never an enjoyable time. Those arguments become even less enjoyable when one (or both) people become more focused on “being right” or “winning” the argument. It may just be me, but I’ve found that “fighting fair” in arguments is one of the hardest things to master. Emotions run high and it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters.
Here are a few ways you can clean up your fights. We want to improve the quality of them and get them more about resolving the issue and not about being the winner.
Leave out “Always” or “Never”
Yes, it can seem like the other person “always” goes out without you or they “never” take out the trash. Whatever the case may be, “always” and “never” are very extreme words. They’re also pretty combative and puts the other person on the defensive.
When I’m in an argument and someone tells me that I never or always do something, it becomes more about proving that point wrong. It can also turn into pointing out things that the other person always or never does.
Try to express yourself in a different, nicer way. “I feel like I’ve *taken the trash out a lot this week*.” Then, you can even offer a solution, ask them if they can help more, ask if anything has been keeping them distracted. Maybe there’s an underlying issue or thing going on and they just genuinely didn’t notice or they did notice and they really appreciated your extra help.
*Insert your own annoyance or feeling here*
I don’t mean listen to respond. Genuinely hear what the other person has to say. If you’re focused on something your partner says and your constructing your response, then you’re not listening. How are you supposed to grow and move forward if you’re only having half a conversation? There’s also a chance that the other person will realize what you’re doing and start doing the same thing. If you want to be heard, you also have to do some hearing.
The next time you find yourself drafting your response. Stop, breathe, and focus. Focus on their words and find the emotions that they are trying to convey to you. Then, when it is your time to talk, try to summarize what they said first, before you move onto what you wanted to say. It lets them know you were listening. Plus, maybe they didn’t properly communicate something. It gives them a chance to clarify.
While you’re listening to your partner, let them get their whole entire thought out.
The reasoning here is pretty much the same as listening. So, I won’t go too deep into this. It’s just important enough that I think it should get it’s own category.
I’m going to keep this one short, because it should be obvious. Stay focused on what you two are talking about. Do not scroll through your phone. Do not channel surf. It’s disrespectful. Stay focused on the other person.
The exception: you have kids and one of them needs your attention. I would also, tentatively, accept work calls as an exception. However, that would have to be something you and your partner were comfortable with.
One at a Time
Are you guys arguing (or disagreeing) about how the housework isn’t fairly split up? Keep it focused on that. It can be easy to latch onto one thing and start arguing on that and then another and another, and the next thing you know you’ve forgotten what you were initially disagreeing about.
Resolve your current issue first. If you still want to work on different things once that’s resolved, then go for it. Just stick to one thing at a time.
No Name Calling or Belittling
Keep it respectful. Don’t call your partner mean names or belittle the things they do. This can be a range of things. Let’s rattle off a few examples:
- “You only do…”
- “Bitch/asshole/stupid/idiot” etc.
- “I do…” (generally proclaiming everything you do and the few things your partner does. Very closely related to “You only do”)
- “What do you actually do?”
- “You have it easy”
- “You couldn’t do what I do”
- “You’re a bad parent”
It’s so easy to destroy someone with words. Don’t do it. You can tell someone negative (and not constructive) once and they will remember it more than all the times that you told them how wonderful they are. Don’t mess up all the positive things you and the other person have because you’re angry now.
Take a Breath
If you feel like you’re getting to a point where you’re not being productive, then take a break from the conversation. Take a few minutes and just collect yourself. Don’t just leave without saying anything. Tell your partner that you need a minute to calm down. Tell them you want to continue your conversation, but at this very moment you are too angry (or whatever it is you’re feeling) and that you want to cool down so you can remain productive in your conversation. This way you can come back in with a cool head and be able to work together to resolve your problems.
These tips seem easy, but they will take work from both you and your partner to keep your arguments healthy and productive. Don’t get discouraged and keep at it. It really makes a huge difference. Just remember that you’re a team and you’re bound to have disagreements in the future. Anything that you both can do to make those disagreements easier will strengthen and grow your relationship.
Let me know what you think in the comments! What tips do you have for people trying to improve the quality of their arguments?