Arguments are a normal part of every relationship, but they can be distressing. However you can learn to argue better. Why not try following these top tips to minimize the negative impact arguing has on your relationship?
Discuss issues as they occur. When things crop up that distress, irritate or make you unhappy, try to address them. This doesn’t mean giving your partner constant criticism, instead it’s about addressing problems before they build up and erupt, causing maximum damage.
Compromise. Take turns to have your say and use active listening skills so your partner knows they’re being heard. Try to maintain eye contact and nod your head as they talk. Phrases like, “I see where you’re coming from” and “That’s a good point, but…” will show them you’re trying to think about things from their point of view, too.
Use ‘I’ statements. Be assertive without putting your partner on the defensive by explaining how their actions make you feel rather than telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. For example, say: “I feel really let down when I’m left to put the kids to bed alone every night” rather than “You never help me out, get off the computer and give the kids a bath”. (The latter is an example of a ‘you’ statement that can contribute to a breakdown in communication.)
Accept there are no winners. Neither side should leave an argument feeling like they’ve ‘lost’. Instead try to resolve the dispute through compromise and never say anything that will belittle your partner.
Don’t overanalyse. Try to take what your partner says at face value; if you constantly assume there’s an ulterior motive or hidden meaning then having a rational discussion about your issues will become impossible.
Try not to let arguments stem from jealousy. Recognise and respond to the root cause by reassuring your partner and doing all you can to boost their confidence. Unreasonable jealousy is almost always caused by low self esteem. Why not check out our tips page on jealousy for move advice?
Consider couples counselling. If petty arguments are a persistent problem then you could consider counselling to help you work through the issue. Relate recorded that 80 per cent of people who came to them for counselling reported a stronger relationship as a consequence.
Take a time out. If a fight looks set to turn explosive take 30 minutes out to calmly think about what each other is saying and the points you’re trying to put across. Research shows that it can take as long as half an hour to calm down from an argument.
Put pen to paper. If your partner has a tendency to shut down during arguments, you might find a reasoned letter or email is a good way to express and acknowledge different points of view. Likewise, writing things down when you’re feeling emotional ensures your point doesn’t get lost in all the upset.
Remember body language. Standing with your arms crossed or facing away from your partner can put you both on the defensive. Try to remain open and maintain eye contact as much as possible. Often something as simple as a knowing smile or gentle touch is enough to remind couples why they love each other and put the argument to bed.