8 Old-Fashioned Hacks For Working Through Arguments With A Partner That We Should Bring Back
There are plenty of things that should be left in the past, but the olden days do have some things to teach us when it comes to working through arguments effectively. According to experts, some hacks from the past can be surprisingly powerful for helping you and your partner get through a fight and emerge stronger than ever.
The basis of many of these tips is staying kind, even during conflict. "When we feel hurt or angry, the partner may be tempted to assume that the other person meant to cause the feeling," Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD, psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch, tells Bustle. "However, if a partner is willing to consider alternative, benevolent assumptions, it leaves more room for constructive working through of the problem," she explains. In other words, try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt, even during a major argument. Making positive assumptions like this will improve the tone of the conflict, Dr. Dorfman says, and lead to a more positive outcome.
Whether you're quibbling about who does the dishes more often or dealing with something much more serious, here are some old-fashioned suggestions to help you navigate a rocky patch, according to experts.
1. Be Vulnerable
Back when lovers wrote long, flowery letters to each other, they weren't afraid to be clear about their emotions. This is one trick that modern couples could really learn from, Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, a couples therapist in NYC, tells Bustle. "Don't be afraid to take a risk and show your vulnerability," she says. "Telling your partner you miss them, want to spend more time with them and want to connect will defuse an argument." Bonus points if you share your feelings in the form of a scented note.
2. Keep Peace In Front Of Others
You might be in a habit of discussing your relationship problems with your friends, but keeping things closer when you're fighting could help strengthen your bond with your partner, licensed professional counselor April Kirkwood, tells Bustle.
"Whatever was going on in the olden days was kept strictly between them," she says. "They were a team even if they wanted to kill each other; no one got involved and it kept their personal issues from becoming community property." If you really need counsel from your BFF, you're always free to reach out, of course. Just try keeping things between you and your partner first.
3. Don't Declare A Winner
Back when everyone followed social etiquette rules, things sometimes stayed more civil, even during an argument. "This old-fashioned approach to conflict acknowledges that you both have a valid argument," dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle, "and sometimes it's best not to declare a winner." Not every fight has to be resolved, she says. If you're truly at an impasse, acknowledge that and stop the tension by just moving on respectfully.
4. Go For A Stroll Together
Depending on how serious the argument is, it might not be something that can be settled with a quick five-minute conversation. If that's the case, try the old-fashioned trick of taking a break from a fight together. While there's a time and a place for cooling down apart, CrisMarie Campbell, MBA, a relationship coach and author of The Beauty of Conflict for Couples, tells Bustle that something as simple as a walk can be the perfect way to shift the energy during an argument. Just be sure to take a complete break from discussing whatever was causing tension, she says.
5. Do Some Gardening Together
In the heat of a big fight, emotions can run high. "The best way of resolving this is by channeling your and your partner's pent up emotions into physical activities," Celia Schweyer, dating expert at datingscout.com, tells Bustle. Go for a stroll in a nearby park or tackle some of the houshold projects you've been needing to finish to release any anger as safely and productively as possible, she says. "Once you've both cleared your heads and you are completely spent, you can now discuss your situation and how the other is feeling." Besides, there's the obvious metaphor of the two of you working together to grow something beautiful.
6. Sit On A Comfy Couch
It may seem like the tiniest thing, but your seating can actually have a major role in how effective your argument is, says Schweyer. Highly structured chairs might be in style now, but a comfortable couch is your best bet in this situation. "This might not be common knowledge," she says, "but sitting on comfortable and soft sofas can actually help you become more accommodating which can lead to easier and faster resolutions." This is the perfect time to relax into the armchair you inherited from your grandma or the old sofa you've had for years.
7. Don’t "Hit Below The Belt"
"Hitting below the belt is when you use a partner’s weakness, [...] to win an argument," Marisa Peer, celebrity therapist and founder of Rapid Transformational Therapy, tells Bustle. With the stressors you're facing, it could be easy to dig at your partner's vulnerabilities during a fight, but take a cue from the past and keep your conversation on the topic that has caused the conflict. "Hitting below the belt badly affects the confidence and the security of the person you are attacking, which can negatively impact your relationship long-term," Peer says. Do your best not to bring up past problems, and instead work through the current situation together.
8. Be Clear About Your Roles
Obviously, stereotypical gender roles don't need to apply anymore, but what you can learn from this, is to get on the same page as far as expectations go. Define within your relationship what it looks like to coordinate on housework, grocery shopping, and date planning. The more secure you and your partner are in establishing what works for the two of you, the less likely it is that small issues like this will come up during an argument about something else. "[This will] eliminate a lot of angst and grumpy moments when unspoken expectations create tension," Kirkwood says.
Whenever things are getting heated, take a moment to step back together and do something sweet like slow dance in the living room or go flower shopping. Keeping the focus on each other could help you put the argument in perspective.