Disagreements are a part of every relationship. Anytime you spend endless waking hours with another individual there is bound to be some friction. The trick is learning how to manage those arguments and prevent them from becoming destructive, emotional outbursts. So here are 10 rules to keeping fights fair.
1. Our intention should never be to “win” a fight. If we win an argument that means our partner has lost. Instead, seek to understand where your partner is coming from and try to see their point of view.
2. Don’t name call. Don’t call your partner “stupid” or “dumb” and don’t label them as “moody” or “angry.” Instead, use such words to showcase how you feel.
3. Listen to our partner’s concerns. In order to have productive arguments and cultivate healthy relationships, we have to listen to our partner’s concerns. Each of us can have vastly different perspectives on situations. It can be difficult to get out of our head and see a different vantage point, but it is so important to do in order to resolve conflict.
4. Avoid using words like “never” or “always.” Saying things like, “you never listen to me” or “you’re always mad” are extreme statements. When our partner hears these words, it puts them in defense mode. It’s better to use phrases like, “I sometimes feel” or “I wish you would.”
5. Stick to the subject. In the middle of an argument, don’t add in feelings you’ve been harboring. For example, while sharing that you’re upset your husband forgot your anniversary, don’t also say, “and you never want to visit my parents with me.”
6. Timing is everything. Arguments happen. We don’t typically plan them. But if an argument starts and one of you is tired, hungry, or has to leave — pause and agree to come back and finish the discussion at a better time. No one wants to argue the night before an important meeting and we all know angry fights aren’t good for anyone.
7. Don’t keep score. Once the argument is resolved, don’t keep a tally of who started the argument, who apologized first, or who yelled the most. Let it be resolved and move on.
8. Don’t assume your partner knows how you’re feeling. They don’t. Men and women are so different and like #3 said, we have different experiences and perspectives of the world. Express your feelings and be careful not to presume your partner understands or feels the same way.
9. Don’t assume you know how your partner feels. Just like they can’t read your mind, you can’t read theirs. So let them express themselves before you think you know how they feel.
10. Remember you’re on the same team. The objective of the argument should be resolution, to bring you closer together, and understanding one another better than before. You aren’t supposed to be against one another, but two people working toward a common goal.
Arguments are a part of all relationships. If two people are honestly being themselves, they’re bound to have some disagreements. But arguments don’t have to be confrontational or extremely emotional. Healthy arguing can ultimately benefit our relationships and lead us to understanding one another better.
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.