Arguing is like a science. In fact, there are ways to get really good at it. I know what it sounds like. And, no, I’m not talking about winning arguments…at least in the sense that you’re thinking of. But, if you implement these strategies it might be a win for your relationship.
Most couples struggle with communication. There’s lots of reasons for this. Men aren’t used to conflict with words the way women are (stereotypically.) So, they tend to shut down more. Women on the other hand, statistically use more words than men in a day. And, they are much more prone to accepting feelings and expressing them. Or course, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes things are the opposite, or anywhere in between.
With the struggle mentioned above, it can be difficult for both parties. Then, when you combine unhealthy conflict styles, you can quickly see an argument turning disastrous. I’ve seen the awful conflict in my Atlanta therapist office time and time again. Here’s a list of the don’ts in arguments. To help you out, I’ve also listed the do’s.
Don’t – Most of the time it’s not a good idea to allow yourself to get overly emotional. If you are feeling overly aggressive, angry, or even sad, you may need to take a time out. When we get to an overly emotional place, we struggle to really listen and take in what the other person is saying. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Emotions are fine. It’s okay to cry, or feel angry, or get irritated. When you get to the point that you feel like you will explode, you’ve probably gone too far. You might need to ask for a five minute break, or a two hour break.
Do – Allow yourself to feel and express your feelings in healthy ways. Work to label your feeling during the discussion. If you need to take a break from the conversation because the feelings are overwhelming, ask to do so. I always like to also set an expectation of when you can return to it so that your partner does not feel like you are shutting them down or avoiding the issue.
Don’t – Don’t become aggressive in word, tone, or action. Try to be mindful of how you sound and what you are doing with your body. If you are coming off as aggressive your partner may go into fight-or-flight response without even realizing it. They won’t be able to stay open and willing. So, if you notice you’re becoming aggressive, take a pause. Or, do the opposite of what appears aggressive. If you’re shouting, talk in a quiet voice. If you’re pounding your fists, place them calmly on your lap. If you’re pacing, sit down. You may even note what you notice to your spouse and tell them you’re adjusting. So you could say ‘I just noticed I’m yelling. I’m angry but I’m going to adjust my volume because I want to make sure you feel comfortable continuing the conversation, and I don’t think yelling is helpful right now.’
Don’t – Try not to Criticize, use harsh labels, or blame. I know it’s difficult, but when we Jude the thing our partner does, it puts them on the defensive. The easiest way to do this is to state facts and feelings. We get into dangerous grounds when we put judgments or thoughts with the facts. Here’s an example of the don’t. We’ll put the solution below. Partner 1 says “I can’t believe it! You do this all the time. You’re so lazy. This is why we always argue. Again, you’re sitting on the couch when shit needs to get done.”