The things you say to your partner during an argument are some of the most crucial words you will ever speak in your entire relationship. Even if the argument is about something trivial, like what movie to watch, how you speak and act can mean big things for your love. For example, respectful communication during conflict helps build trust, intimacy, boundaries, and mutual understanding. Negative or hurtful communication does the opposite, and over time, it can lead to enough hurt and resentment to destroy a relationship. That's how relationships end for seemingly no reason.
As a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, relationship drama was my life for years. And in those years, I saw so many conflicts (even some that led to violence) that could have been resolved peacefully if both partners just knew how to communicate. This is not to say that poor communication skills mean you deserve abuse, or that it's your fault. This is never the case. I only mean that knowing how to argue, including what to say and what not to say, can prevent problems from escalating.
While it's impossible to teach couples healthy conflict resolution and communication skills in one article, these seven things you should say to your partner during an argument are a good start to getting to a more positive and productive place.
Sometimes the best thing to say is actually to say nothing. Listening is so important when you're having a disagreement. You both deserve to have your say, and to be heard. It's not respectful to dominate the argument, or to only be thinking of what you want to say next when your partner is talking. So step one is to make sure you close your mouth when it's time for your partner to have their say.
2. I Understand
You have an opinion. Your partner has an opinion. They're vastly different opinions. You don't have to agree with your partner's opinions to understand why they have them. What you should do is put yourself in their shoes, try to understand where they're coming from, and let them know that you can see why they might think they way they do. It's a huge plus for your trust and happiness as a couple if you can express to them that you see where they're coming from.
3. I Disagree, And Here's Why
When it's your turn to have your say, it's important not to waste your partner's attention span (or completely turn the off from listening to you) with blame, insults, excessive negativity, and drama. Instead, it's the time to say your opinion, explain where you're coming from, and make your case for what you think is the best solution. It's tempting to just yell, bring up past issues, name call, and make yourself out as a victim, but those behaviors aren't going to get you to a solution in a fair and positive way.
4. I Feel...
"I" statements, if you've never heard of them, are statements that express how a situation makes you feel. It's important to use your "I" statements in an argument. For example, instead of saying "you're always late because you only think about yourself" you would say "when you're late, it makes me frustrated, and it makes me feel like you're not making me a priority or taking my time seriously." This helps your partner empathize with you and recognize the consequences of their actions instead of getting into a defensive mode.
5. What's The Middle Ground?
When you both want something different, and it's led to a major argument, the best thing you can do is compromise. Ask your partner "what's the middle ground?" Middle ground should be a solution that makes you both happy, or that is fair to everyone, even if it's not exactly what you both want. For example, if you both really want to live in the same towns as your families, the best thing to do might be to live in the middle, so you're both the same distance from your families. Or maybe it's just a matter of saying "we can see the movie you want to see today if I get to pick the movie next weekend."
6. I'm Sorry
Even if, as far as you're concerned, the argument was totally your partner's fault, you should both still be respectful and mature. That means both apologizing. Because even if you're not apologizing for doing anything wrong, you can still be sorry that your partner was upset or that you argued. When both of you apologize, you help share the burden of your problems and pave the way for a loving make up
7. How Can We Do Better Next Time?
When there's a clear issue at the core of your argument, then part of your solution needs to be how to deal with that same situation in the future. For example, if you're arguing over one partner spending too much money, then you might say something like "how about in the future, we always have to discuss purchases of more than $100." If you make a plan for how to handle things down the line, you can save yourself from having the same argument all over again.
If you make sure to say all of these things during an argument, you can give yourself a giant pat on the back for some serious, mature adulting.