How To "Win" Arguments With Your Partner

by Kristine Fellizar

I will be the first to admit that I am a true Taurus at heart. While that could definitely be a good thing in the sense that I’m patient, stable, and trustworthy, I also have a notorious stubborn streak. Couple that stubbornness with a super-competitive side, and you’ll find that arguing with me is like fighting a large boulder that won’t stop coming at you. Needless to say, when it comes to relationships, that’s not really a good thing. Arguments are fine. Every couple goes through them, or at least they should. But there are ways to win arguments in relationships that won’t leave either of you feeling like losers. Because, let’s face it, no matter who “wins,” one person ends up feeling bad and that just tends to kill the mood for everyone.

I recently spoke with Stacy Kaiser, licensed psychotherapist and the Editor-at-Large for Live Happy on her thoughts on how to win an argument with your partner. After all, with the breakups happening lately, everyone could use a little relationship refresher or two.

First and foremost, don’t bring up issues from the past. As Kaiser says, “If your partner did that annoying thing, AGAIN, just talk about this ONE incident not all of the others. This way your partner doesn’t feel like you are throwing the past in his or her face, plus staying in the here and now is always most effective way to communicate.”

Secondly, use your words. “[Use] sentences like, ‘It hurts my feelings when you are late,’ or ‘I feel sad and angry when you call me names,’ instead of, ‘You’re so annoying when you are late,’ or ‘Calling me names is rude!’ Talking about your own feelings gives the person more of an opportunity to listen and more of a willingness to respond kindly,” Kaiser says.

Don’t be afraid to ease into an argument with a compliment. “Before you stay something critical, start with something nice: “I love how you always bring me flowers for no occasion, however, I would also like you to remember my actual birthday,” or “You are kinder than anyone I know, however, when you hang up on me without saying goodbye, it hurts my feelings,” Kaiser said. “It is always easier to hear something that starts with a compliment.”

This one tends to be my biggest problem, but before any drama goes down, you need to stop thinking about you and start thinking about your partner. As Kaiser says, “Before you speak during an argument or confront a situation, put yourself in your partner’s shoes and let him or her know that you understand their point of view. This way things don’t sound one sided.”

Most importantly, look for the middle ground. “Try to find a compromise where you both walk away feeling like you got something out of the argument,” Kaiser says.

Just because you and your partner argue, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is doomed to fail. As Kaiser tells Bustle, “A lot of couples make the mistake of thinking that arguing is damaging and that they are better off brushing things under the rug or trying to ignore them all together. This is simply not true. All relationships have conflict, everyone disagrees, and feelings need to be vented. These things just need to happen calmly, in a controlled environment, with each partner desiring that the outcome be that both walk away feeling better. I always say that the key to healthy conflict involves putting your partners comfort and happiness equal to your own.”

Here are six other experts and their take on how to win arguments with your partner:

1. Don’t Aim To Win

According to marriage coach and author of the book, Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage,and host of weekly radio show, “Happily Ever After is Just the Beginning,” Lesli Doares says, “The biggest problem with trying to resolve conflict is trying to ‘win.’ If you are winning, your partner has to be losing. This dynamic is never good for the relationship. The best thing is to try and find a solution that works for both of you AND the relationship. This does not require compromise or not being honest. It means reaching an accommodation that honors both of your positions. Most arguments are about maintaining what's comfortable for you, not an absolute ‘right.’”

2. Follow The Fair-Fighting Rules

Ieshai Bailey-Davis, M.S., CST, a Board Certified Sex Therapist, who works in private practice says, As a therapist who works with couples, I emphasize the importance of individuals and couples to take into consideration 'fair-fighting rules.' Some helpful tips include understanding why they are upset, speaking with their partners using 'I' statements instead of 'you' statements, eliminating offensive and degrading language, and employing active listening skills. For instance, using 'I' statements helps individuals to communicate in an assertive way rather than a passive or aggressive way. It also helps their partner to hear more accurately what the concerns are and helps to eliminate blame and issues of power and control.”

3. It's All About Influence

“The best way to ‘win an argument’ is to allow your partner to influence you. Arguments don't have to culminate in win-lose or lose-win scenarios. Actually, that mindset is harmful to couples,” Rebecca Wong, relationship therapist and founder of Connectfulness says. “What is helpful is tuning into your partner and listening to what they have to say. Hearing their perspective and allowing yourself to be influenced by it … Once you do, your partner will be more able to hear your perspective and allow it to influence them as well.”

4. Look For Creative Options

According Brad McMurrey, author of The Love Ladder, a comprehensive collection of advice on how to improve an existing relationship,

“If you win an argument in an honest way you will help strengthen your relationship. But also let me say this. If you 'win' the other person may feel like they 'lost.' It’s important to look for win-win solutions—compromises acceptable to both. Partners should brainstorm together, looking for creative options. For example, if the issue is division of labor around the house, take over each other’s responsibilities for a day or week to gain a better understanding and appreciation for them.”

5. Adjust

“When having an argument with your partner, the biggest win you can have is to help your partner hear what you are saying, understand what you need, and adjust his or her future behavior. The more you can focus on how you feel and what you need, the less defensive your partner will feel and the more likely it is that he or she will be able to hear what you are saying,” licensed marriage and family therapist Holly LaBarbera says. “You have more chance of winning in the relationship and the argument when you share your experience and encourage change for the future rather than focus on being right.”

6. Again, Stop Trying To Win

Echoing the sentiments above, relationship expert, life mentor, and author, Tom Gagliano says, “You don't win an argument. When both parties want to be right then neither is listening. If you want to be heard you need to choose closeness instead of being right. When the partner feels heard and valued then they will hear you and you have a better chance of being heard too.”

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