What You Should Avoid Doing During An Argument With Your Partner, According To Experts
As counterintuitive as it might sound, it's actually perfectly healthy for couples to have arguments. Every couple will disagree from time to time, so it's not the act of fighting itself that shows how stable or toxic a couple is — it's how you argue that matters. If you want your relationship to last long-term, it's imperative to learn how to fight fairly with your partner. Knowing how to effectively communicate and resolve conflict in a healthy way is key: couples who have toxic communication habits will have a much harder time navigating their relationship's rough patches.
"Eliminate all name-calling, finger-pointing, blaming, and shaming," Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor & Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, tells Bustle. "A toxic relationship cannot thrive. Angry outbursts chip away at the love and trust that a couple has for each other. Instead, take ownership for your feelings and frustration by focusing on why your [partner's] actions disturb you."
When you're in the habit of arguing a certain way — maybe you tend to raise your voice or getting defensive — it can be really hard to change your behavior. But in order for a relationship to last, you have to be able to communicate your issues and feelings in a healthy way. If you want to improve how you argue with your partner, here are seven things to avoid doing during a fight.
1. Don't Try To "Win" A Fight
In a healthy relationship, you should always feel like you and your partner are on the same team — and when you fight, neither of you should be aiming to "win" the argument.
"Verbal fighting, debating, and even heated arguments are normal in healthy relationships, and even can be healthy for couples," Michele Meiche, Spiritual Life Coach, Relationship Coach, and Intuitive Counselor, tells Bustle. "What is not healthy for couples is arguing to win. Arguments and 'fights' to be healthy need to be centered in wanting your viewpoint to be understood. It isn’t so much who 'wins'... but that you are listened to, heard, acknowledged and understood."
2. Avoid Raising Your Voice
In the heat of the moment, when emotions are running high, it can be hard to control your volume level — but yelling will only make fights with your partner worse.
"If a person finds their voice or the other person's voice is getting louder, predetermine a way to give that person feedback," Dr. Gladys Frankel, Clinical Psychologist, tells Bustle. "Take a break, get grounded and start discussion again. Nothing needs to be solved immediately. Keep discussions at a calm voice level."
3. Don't Bring Up The Past
The longer you've been together, the more emotional baggage your relationship will probably have. But to keep fights fair in the present, avoid bringing up any of your past problems during "now" arguments.
"Stay in the present," Frankel says. "People often slide back and bring in content that occurred a while ago, full of resentment and anger. The partner immediately stops listening. This becomes the tinder to fuel a fight. People move away from each other. It takes a while to come back to neutral and interact again. Voice tones rise and as soon as that happens, people stop listening to the other person. Arguments then get worse."
4. Don't Argue At "Bad" Times
OK, so there's never really a "good" time to argue with your significant other, but it's important to break the habit of bringing up serious topics at bad times, like right before bed or when one of you is already stressed.
"[A healthy] couple finds or waits for a time in which they are both clear-headed, well-rested, and not super stressed to discuss contentious topics," Natalie Feinblatt, Psy.D., tells Bustle. By waiting until both people are in the headspace to talk calmly and clearly, you're lowering the odds that one of you will get overcome by emotion and exacerbate the argument.
5. Don't Name-Call
If you respect your partner, your aim should never be to hurt them, even when you're in the midst of a fight. One huge relationship no-no? Calling your partner names or otherwise demeaning them while you argue.
"Do not call each other names as this will only increase defensiveness, increase painful emotions, and obscure the true cause of the fight," Feinblatt says.
6. Don't Point Fingers
When a problem pops up in your relationship, it's extremely important to be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way — without placing blame on your partner. An easy way to improve how you communicate is to use "I" statements: it allows you to express your feelings without making your partner feel accused or blamed.
"Instead of starting every sentence with 'You...' [a healthy] couple works to instead structure their sentences as 'I feel (blank) when you (blank),'" Feinblatt says. "This reduces defensiveness and gets to the emotions underlying the fight."
7. *Never* Get Physical
It should go without saying, but no matter what you're arguing about, it's never OK to get physical with your partner — period.
"The biggest thing is to keep in mind that treating each other with love and respect must be rule number one even in disagreements," Pablo Solomon, Licensed Professional Counselor, tells Bustle. "You must stick to the issue, and not digress into name calling, yelling, throwing things, etc. If either of you is so wound up that you/they do not feel as if the issue can be discussed rationally at that time — go to your separate corners and do not discuss the issue until you both think you can act like sane, rational people."
Why Is It Important To Fight Fairly?
Even though it's never fun to argue with your partner, couples who experience hardship and work through it together will ultimately build a stronger, healthier relationship than couples who sweep all their problems under the rug. Plus, every fight is an opportunity to learn and grow as a couple.
"Many times the fight is revealing a couple’s next level of growth individually and as a couple," Meiche says. "Healthy fighting brings more intimacy… In fighting you become vulnerable. You show where your needs, and neediness is; as well as where you need more individual expression, or autonomy."
So if you want your relationship to thrive, the best thing you can do is start working on how you communicate and argue with your partner. If you build good communication habits now, there will be no obstacle you and your partner won't be able to overcome together.