AS much as arguing with your partner might suck, conflict is bound to arise in any relationship — especially a long-term one. No matter how strong and healthy your relationship is, or how much of a great fit you and your partner are, at some point, you’re going to have disagreements.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Esure, couples argue an average of 2,455 times a year!
If you think about it, you and your partner might argue way more often than that — or way less often. Things, after all, work differently for every couple. However, at the end of the day, what matters most isn’t how often you argue, but the way you argue with your partner.
What follows is a 4-step guide to argue in a better and healthier way with your partner; in a way that will improve your communication and move your relationship forward rather than severely hurting it.
1. Stop Trying to “Win”
A great mistake many people do when they argue with their partner is to do and say whatever it takes in order to gain the upper hand, e.g. to make their partner acknowledge the “truth”, to convince them to change their minds, and to emotionally dominate over them.
As the team of the School of Life explains in this article:
“The great error we make is to assume that the way to fix an argument is to attempt to reach an objective truth that can, once it has been brought out into the open, neutralize the force of the fierce offence we feel. But there’s an unfortunate and somewhat paradoxical side of arguments in relationships: it substantially doesn’t matter what the truth is. It’s by the by who has the stronger case. It’s an irrelevance who can ‘win’.”
The thing is, when it comes to differences of opinions/views/values, there is no “objective truth” and no right or wrong. You and your partner were raised in different families/environments, and by people who shared different values, which makes it natural for your opinions on various subject to differ.
Arguments shouldn’t be transformed into power plays. The point of an argument in relationships is for the two people involved to listen, try to understand each other, and work together in order to fix the situation that caused the argument — and overall improve their communication.
2. Identify What Hides Behind Your Anger
Most often than not, although we might not acknowledge or even realize it at the moment, behind our arguments with our partners, hide our either unmet needs or unresolved feelings.
As psychologist Seth J. Gillihan explains in his article in Psychology Today:
“We often think that events cause our feelings — for example, our partner treats us unkindly and we get angry. However, there’s always a step between an event and our emotion. In my cognitive-behavioral approach I often emphasize the thought between an event and a feeling:
My partner took 4 hours to reply to my text → She doesn’t care about me. → Distress, anger”
In other words, if you want to have better, healthier arguments with your partner, it would be wise to step back for a moment and do some self-reflection that can help you identify:
- What hides behind your anger
- What you’re truly asking from your partner behind an argument
What follows, is sharing your feelings with your partner.
3. Share Your True Needs/Feelings With Your Partner
At first, it might sound scary to be completely honest with your significant other and share with them your inner thoughts, deepest fears, and unmet needs.
However, you need to remember that without doing so, conflict and negative feelings will keep arising between you and your partner, you’ll both start struggling in your relationship and the latter will begin to deteriorate.
Now, let’s say, for example, that you got into an argument with your partner about how often they’ve been going out with their friends lately. You might say things like “you keep leaving all the household chores to me”, or “you need to spend your free time more wisely”, or even “I think that your friends are a terrible influence for you”.
By saying these things you might come off as overly jealous and controlling when, in reality, you’re actually afraid that your partner’s recent change of behavior means that they are getting bored of you.
In fact, what you really need to say is, “You going out with your friends all the time makes me feel unseen. I might be wrong, but I’m afraid that your feelings towards me have changed and that you’re not that interested in me anymore”.
At the end of the day, if your partner gave you the reassurance, and the sense of security you crave, you wouldn’t care so much about how often they go out with their friends, and no arguments about that subject would arise.
4. Apologize Sincerely and Effectively
For some people, apologizing comes easier than it does for others.
If you think about it, even when we were kids, some of us were forced by our parents to apologize whenever we did something wrong — and didn’t like it — , while others apologized out of our own will — and felt better for doing so.
One thing’s for sure: if you want a healthy, long-lasting relationship, you need to learn to apologize sincerely and effectively after an argument with your partner, provided you did or said something wrong.
By apologizing sincerely to your significant other you show them that:
- You are mature enough to acknowledge your mistakes
- You are capable of taking responsibility for your actions
- You care about and validate their feelings
However, you need to apologize not only sincerely, but effectively as well, e.g. in a way that makes it clear for your partner that you indeed feel sorry for your mistakes, and will do your best not to repeat them.
For example, instead of saying something along the lines of “I don’t agree with you/I don’t understand you but I apologize anyway”, try to say instead:
“I’m sorry for hurting your feelings by my actions. You’re important to me and I’ll try my best not to make you feel that way again.”
Remember, sometimes just the act of saying something isn’t enough. What matters most, is how you say it.
Throughout the years, I’ve heard many people complaining about how often they were arguing with their partners and wondering whether they would be able to improve their relationship if they found a way to prevent arguments from happening.
The truth is, there’s no way to avoid conflict, arguments, and disagreements in a relationship — they are actually a natural part of any relationship.
In fact, even the happiest couples argue. The trick here isn’t just to minimize your arguments, but rather to learn how to argue in a better, healthier way.
Previously published on medium
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