Believe it or not, arguments are a tool, and they're pretty useful in relationships. To get the most out of your disagreements, there are some argument hacks that every couple should know. Because there are hacks for everything, so why not those shouting matches over who needs to just pick a place to eat already? In all seriousness, learning how to disagree and how to argue is really important to a relationship. As in, it could mean the difference between being two people who settle their differences and move on, or being two people who fester with pent up anger and resentment until everything goes sour.
When arguing goes wrong, it has the potential to go dangerously wrong, as I saw a lot in my time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. You may think it could never happen to you, but most of the arguments I saw that ended in violence or heartbreak started over something seemingly unimportant, like laundry or being late. Emotions run high when you mix strong emotions together, like anger and love.
That being said, there is a kinder, gentler, more effective way to argue that actually serves a purpose and betters your relationship. To get to #relationshipgoals status, you need to nail down the following argument hacks
1. "I" Statements
The first thing you have to do is to take blame off the table. That happens when you use your "I" statements. That means instead of saying "you're always late and you suck at life" you make it about how you feel by saying "when you're late, it makes me feel frustrated and unimportant." It's a totally better way to get to the heart of the matter, and usually bring up less defensiveness from your partner.
2. Active Listening
No matter how mad you are, or how wrong your partner is being, you have to let them have their chance to speak. And you can't just be quiet while you think of things to say. You have to really listen and try to see where they're coming from. It's only fair.
3. Receptive Posture
There are lots of communication postures that experts teach in healthy communication classes, but at the heart of all those different postures is the idea that you need to be aware of your body language. Try to take a more relaxed, engaged posture than one where you're leaned in, fists clenched, shoulders up, and looking like you're a lizard ready to catch a fly with your tongue.
You'll get more out of your disagreement if you try to put yourself in your partner's shoes. You don't have to agree, but if you can look at the situation from their perspective and try to understand why they feel what they feel or do what they do, it will be easier for you to understand that they're probably not doing things you don't like just to hurt you.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as the saying goes. It applies to arguments, in that no matter how angry you are, or how frustrated, you can't resort to disrespectful behaviors. What is and isn't disrespectful will vary depending on your values and boundaries, but for the most part, name calling, judging, and making accusations are things you should probably avoid.
A common scenario in arguments is where one person gets their feelings hurt and plays the victim while the offender is the villain. Most of the time, this is unproductive. Instead of one partner feeling like they owe their partner a debt of groveling, it's better to talk openly about feelings and make real solutions. It's nice for the offending partner to make things up to the other, but that should be a gesture of kindness from the heart, not a requirement in order to get back in the other partner's good graces.
7. Taking A Time Out
Time outs aren't just for toddlers. If you can't think clearly or communicate respectfully until you've had a cool-off period, then you need to take that time. Your partner needs to respect that time, as well. Pushing someone to talk when they aren't ready is how tempers and name calling get in the way of problem solving.
When you're able to go into a disagreement ready to compromise, you know you have your grown-up panties on. You both can't always get what you want all the time, so there needs to be a fair amount of give and take. Looking for a middle ground that you can both live with is much healthier than "my way or the highway." Unless, of course, it's something you feel you can't compromise on. Then you'll have to have a much bigger discussion.
9. Forgiving But Not Forgetting
It matters to hear people say things like "I forgive you" or "I accept your apology," yet we don't always say them. Just like we don't always say "I'm sorry" and "I realize now that I was wrong." Make sure, if you can, to end your disagreement on a sweet note. Hug it out, if you will. You don't have to hide hurt or angry feelings, but you can acknowledge that you still love each other.
10. ...Except Totally Forgetting Sometimes
This means that once an issue is resolved, it's resolved. It's put away, it's done with. It's not something you can drag out next time you have an argument to throw on the blame pile. If you need to talk about it some more, during another argument is not the time. Don't be bringing up every little thing your partner did wrong in the history of the world. Stick to the situation at hand.
11. Making Changes
When you're having a disagreement and you listen and compromise and all of that, you can't talk just to talk. If you promised you would start or stop doing a particular thing, you have to walk that walk. Otherwise, you're eroding trust by being dishonest, insincere, and/or unreliable, and before you know it, you'll be having an even bigger fight about the same thing.
Once you master these, your arguments will go from dirty and hurtful to powerful and productive. Even if you still want to call your partner a giant jerk-face just a little bit.
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