Relationships don't come with a manual. What we know comes from what we see and experience, and that's not always good. And since we largely learn as we go, it's easy to fall into relationship mistakes you didn't know you were making.
I know all about relationship conflict. I used to work with troubled couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, and educate others on healthy relationships as a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. In that time, I learned that a lot of couples just needed to make a few tweaks to how they addressed conflict to make their relationships run so much more smoothly.
If you learn the right way to argue, you'll soon find that disagreements are tools that bring you closer and help you manufacture the life and relationship you want. You can also cut down on hurt feelings, anger, resentments, and rocky time periods.
If you're guilty of any of these relationships mistakes, try taking a different approach next time you have a disagreement and you'll see that a true partnership can even mean working through issues with each other as a team.
1. Heart First, Head Second
When emotions run high, it's easy to let that fuel you, but sometimes it's better to take some time to cool off. If you jump into an argument from a place of anger, you could exaggerate, say hurtful things, and even say things you don't mean. If you're prone to those types of behaviors, it's better for you to take some time to calm down, cool off, and think things over.
2. Not Using "I" Statements
When you're upset with someone, especially if they've done something specific to make you angry, it's easy to say "you do this" or "you do that." There's a place for that dialogue, but it's more constructive for you to reframe the conversation using "I" statements, so your partner can hear how things affect you. For example, instead of saying "you're always late" you say "I try hard to be on time, and I feel frustrated and disrespected when you're not on time." It cuts to the heart of the issue for you, and it makes it more likely that your partner will hear you and less likely that they'll jump into defensive mode.
3. Blaming Instead Of Solving
When you're in a serious relationship, the goal of arguments isn't about being right. The goal is about solving problems and coming up with solutions that you can both live with. It's common during an argument to just unleash and blame, and that can be very satisfying, but in the long run, it isn't helpful. Better to explain your feelings and work on solutions.
4. Refusing To Bend
Compromise is really important! If you're the type to enter arguments with an agenda in mind, and you push on until you get your way, you're going to have to learn to bend. You won't always get your way, and your partner won't always get their way, and that's normal. Your goal isn't to get what you want. Your goal is to make your relationship work as best it can. Sometimes there will be times when you cannot bend, especially on issues that are incredibly important to your life. But for the most part, you'll have to learn to meet in the middle.
5. Playing The Victim
If you're feelings are hurt, that's OK. IT's normal, it happens. But you can't use your hurt feelings to manipulate your partner into giving you your way. You also can't use your hurt feelings to punish your partner, or to get extra special treatment. If your partner made a mistake, and you talk through it and come to a solution, then you need to go with that solution. If you need to talk about your feelings more, that's also totally normal, but you have to do it in an honest and purposeful way, not to punish or paint yourself as a victim.
6. Misplacing Your Anger
If you had a bad day at work or school, and you missed the bus, and your lunch was gross, and you're hangry, and you come home and your partner left a bunch of dirty dishes, you can't explode. I mean, sometimes it happens. It just comes out, and you have to apologize. But you have to work on being able to tell what you're really angry about. I you hadn't had a terrible day, would you have blown up at your partner? This is a skill that takes practice, but it's an example of how it can be helpful to think before you fight.
7. Letting Things Build
To piggyback on the previous example, imagine that you've had a bad day every day for the last week, and every day you've come home to a messy house that you've had to clean up. You didn't say anything the first six days, then on the seventh, you explode. This is an example of how holding things in can lead to anger and resentment. It's better to express your feelings to your partner as soon as you're able to instead of letting them build.
Arguments aren't ever going to be fun or pretty, but with some practice, they can be tools that make your relationship better instead of situations that make your lives worse.
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