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Dealing with arguments in a relationship

As I have said before, arguments with a partner generally stem from not feeling loved, valued or respected enough. Humans are creatures of emotion and instances, so it is almost impossible to avoid arguments one hundred percent of the time.

The skill though is to recognise arguments early and if avoiding them is not possible then trying to move through them in the most amicable and beneficial way for your relationship is the number one priority. Below are a number of ways to deal with arguments in a relationship… :)

Misconceptions surrounding arguments in relationships:

Some people claim that arguments are “healthy in relationships” and others state that “you only argue with the people you love”. Whilst these have some truth to them, they are rationalising the problem from an extrinsic source.

The reason why someone would think that arguments are healthy in relationships is because they produce a profound spike of emotions. A heavy third of attraction is based around creating emotional spikes, and negative emotions in a relationship often SEEM better than neutral or passive emotions.

When someone refers to arguments being healthy, what they actually mean is that the emotional rollercoaster of feeling their partner cares and the bliss of the making-up period is conducive to the relationship as a whole. There are better ways of achieving this though and whilst a strong will and display of emotions is imperative to a long-lasting relationship, you want to always try to make them wholly positive emotions. You don’t have to argue to express your feelings or to have a ‘making-up’ period! :)

As for only arguing with the people you love, this largely depends on an individual’s personality and general self-esteem. People who are largely dependent on their ego tend to argue more often to try and ‘prove their point’. Others may only argue with the ones they love, sometimes purely as an act of passion. Even if this is true, there are far better ways to show you love someone than by arguing with them!

The main reason to avoid arguments:

Arguments can often feel like you are fighting a losing battle and that is because you simply cannot WIN an argument… or rather, if you do ‘win’, it is going to be a rather hollow victory, where your partner simply feels bad or upset, so try wherever possible to avoid any arguments in the first place. This takes effort from both people in the relationship so make sure your communication with your partner is sufficient.

A great quote from Dale Carnegie is, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”

What he means by this is that even if you do quash your partner’s viewpoints with logic or authority, they will resent the outcome and not actually change their deep-rooted view anyway. Basically, it is impossible for two people to come out of an argument both feeling pleased.

This is where an argument and a discussion vary in definition; an argument is a discussion with emotion… or more specifically, negative emotion! The old cliché “let’s agree to disagree” is severely underrated and is generally the best course of action if a discussion is becoming heated and an argument seems unavoidable.

Now for some practical steps to dealing with arguments in a relationship…

Have some space:

The first and best advice shortly after having an argument (or during one if it is clear that it won’t be resolved amicably) is to have some space. This could be as little as a few minutes of realisation or as much as a couple of hours to calm down and think over what is important to you in the given situation. It is rare that I hear about arguments between couples that are anything more than ego orientated and it is rare an argument has actual crucial substance to it if it is fully broken down… although it won’t seem like that at the time!

Having some space allows each of you to rationalise and understand your own feelings and logically diagnose why you feel it. Then you can discuss together what the issues are, maturely and peacefully. :)

Try to avoid point scoring:

Point scoring involves bringing up past, trivial examples that you feel at the time will back up your argument. Saying things such as, “yes but you always…” or “what about that time when you…” do NOTHING to help you in an argument. All they do is stir up past resentments between you and your partner and add further negative feelings to the mix.

Ignore past examples or past arguments completely and focus only on your current feelings when discussing them with your partner.

Try to avoid blame:

The fact of the matter is that it takes two people to argue and so whatever an argument is about, it is equally BOTH of your faults! A common progression from a dispute is that it actually turns into a tirade of working out whose ‘fault’ the argument was, which is an absurd outcome.

Try to phrase anything you say in this emotionally volatile state as personal feelings without blame. Turn phrases such as “you did…” into “I feel… when…”

This may sound mildly patronising in itself but you will gain so much more respect from your partner in doing this, which will allow them to understand your stance more easily and actually make them want to resolve with you. :)

In a similar fashion, you want to respect your partner’s views and not become defensive. Maybe you don’t agree with them but making them feel inferior for disagreeing with you is probably why the argument erupted in the first place.

A related article that touches on some of the points in this article but from a different angle is ‘How to get through bad patches in a relationship’.

In a future article I will explain in greater detail how to prevent arguments from taking place in your relationship BEFORE they happen. Make sure you SUBSCRIBE if you want articles such as that one to be automatically sent to your e-mail inbox as soon as they are uploaded. You will never receive any unwanted e-mail from me by signing up and you can unsubscribe easily at any point. :)

Much love,

Sam

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30 Responses to “Dealing with arguments in a relationship”

  1. Eva says:

    Hey Sam,

    Another great article : ) I definately agree with the points you make here. I can understand why some people may refer to an argument being ‘healthy’ in a relationship, but as you say, as good as the making up part is, I don’t think it is worth all the previous upset. Arguments are too often about silly little things that generally don’t matter. I think that like you say, it is the job of both people in a relationship to avoid them.

    I do agree that people sometimes need time and space to sort out their emotions, but I also don’t think this is always the best solution. Im my opinion, leaving the situation can cause even more tension between two people. I think it really depends on the situation. For example, if a couple are on an outing and an argument is started, it is often difficult to walk away. I just think that sometimes any disagreements or differences should be sorted out there and then to prevent even more heartache.

    Eva x

    • Hey Eva, great points! :)

      Yes, the ‘having some space’ issue does depend on the specific situation and I definitely wouldn’t recommend leaving emotions stewing whilst apart. What I was more implying was to mutually agree to have a short time to think things over amicably and without resentment. I agree that storming off in a huff and not returning for hours does not help the situation, although psychologically would create the most profound reflection, which is why people do it.

      The main purpose of the time apart is to understand the other person’s point of view and relieve any negative emotions. Obviously if the disagreements or differences can be sorted out immediately then that is the ideal outcome… but as I mentioned in the article, a disagreement is different from an argument!

      As for having arguments whilst in public or out and about, hopefully the couple in question will be mature enough to respect the scenario and postpone any discussions rather than make a scene or walk off. As you say, most arguments are about trivial things and if they aren’t, they are still best discussed in uninterrupted privacy anyway. :)

      Thanks for your comment,
      Sam x

  2. Salwa says:

    Great article, thanks for the advice, I really needed to read this!

    This is my first time visiting your blog and I just wanted to say I have really enjoyed reading your articles. Bookmarked!

  3. Sudeep says:

    Hey ,
    Me too a first time visitor to your blog . Let me tell you that was wonderful article that you have written thanks for that. As a newly married person myself , i am going to print it out for my wife to read it . Keeping on sharing your thoughts .

    Healthy regards
    Sudeep
    Blogging for Optimum Health Care

  4. Christine says:

    I think one of the hardest things to do in a relationship is to temporarily put your feelings aside and actively try to listen to your partner. It’s easy to get selfish and want to scream out your opinions and why you’re right. I definitely had to learn how to recognize when an argument was brewing and how to focus on the goal: to get your opinions across and come to an agreement/compromise. And if you do it calmly, then you still get that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the discussion/would-be argument.

    But we’re all human. Sometimes I just need to say, ‘I win’ and walk away before he can get in a last word:)

    • Hello Christine,

      Agreed! Everyone harps on about how important it is to actively listen to your partner (I think I did in my last article about being a good boyfriend too) but it really is so important to communicate properly with your other half.

      I love the way you put your points about getting your opinions across. Great insights… I’m afraid if you ever happened to argue with me though, you would never win mowahaha!! :)

      Thanks for your insightful comment,

      Sam x

  5. Christine says:

    just read this:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/04/29/marriage.studies/index.html

    it kind of makes me want to start smiling bigger in all of my photos.

    • Thanks for posting that Christine… Really interesting stuff and confirms a lot of theories I’ve been having recently about marriage.

      That’s interesting about the smiling theory too…. I’d like to think I smile enthusiastically in photos… and in general! :D < — Like that :)

      Sam x

  6. Mario says:

    You described exactly the reason why I avoid arguments. Not just with my partner but also with friends and strangers. You just can’t win them (like this book by Dale Carnegie too).

    It comes all down to a mindset. If your partner thinks in a different way than you, it doesn’t mean that one of you is right or wrong. It means that you have different patterns of thinking. (I recently wrote about this in my article ‘Football isn’t implemented in my grid’).

    With this in mind you soon will consider it ridiculous to blame someone that he or she is thinking and feeling in a different way than you. It’s just like blaming a computer of not being able to work on photographs, while the software needed has never been installed.

    I feel that blaming is childish and this is just my opinion. The chance is big that there are many others who don’t think that blaming is childish and in our own world of experience we are both right.

    Imagine everybody would have the same thoughts and the same ideas. Wouldn’t this be boring?

    I guess in every relationship there are moments where you don’t like or love your partner for whatever reason. Even if it’s easier said than done, try to focus on this very moment on the reasons you like, love and chose for your partner. If this doesn’t works and you more and more often feel a dislike you have a probably difficult choice to make.

    Hugs and love everybody,
    Mario

    Sorry for my typos if you find any (English is my third language)

    • Hey Mario,

      They are some great points, thanks for sharing them.

      I like how you relate arguments to simply being different patterns of thinking. This is definitely true of arguments based on opinions or emotions. The times where the mindset might become slightly harder to apply is during logical arguments, or rather when two people argue about something where someone is theoretically ‘correct’. In these instances, even if you ‘know’ you are right it is still wholly counterproductive to ‘prove someone wrong’ in an argumentative way.

      I like your suggestion at the end of your comment about focusing on the bigger picture rather than the present moment… or rather CHANGING the present moment to that of positive emotions! That is why I recommended the ‘having some space’ point, for these particular instances. :)

      Thanks for your comment,

      Sam

      PS: No typos to be found… I can’t believe English is your third language… How long have you been speaking it? I’ve started to try and learn Mandarin (my older brother lives in Beijing so I figure it will be useful), yet I imagine it will be years until I can write the language! :)

  7. MJ Doyle says:

    I have always been proud of the way my husband and I handle disagreements. Sometimes we need a short while to cool off, but there is never any name calling or yelling.

    One strategy we use when we notice the other person is getting irritated during a conversation is to make a joke out of whatever it is to deescalate the situation and avoid an argument. :)

    • Hey MJ,

      That’s a good idea about making light of a situation… I imagine you and your husband have a specific ‘vibe’ between you that allows you to do this. I’d be wary of couples who aren’t necessarily on the same wavelength or equally invested in an argument in making jokes if it might come across as condescending but nonetheless it is great advice to try and deescalate arguments any way possible. :)

      As you say, it’s great to avoid name-calling and raised voices. These sorts of things are inevitably always regretted later on and can be damaging to the relationship as a whole if they are particularly abusive.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Sam

  8. Mario says:

    @MJ Doyle,

    This is a good deescalation technique. If it ever happens that my girlfriend and I have a tiny little fight (it takes no longer dan 30 seconds usually) I mumble ‘Fuck off’ and she leaves the room with an angry face. Then we meet in the backyard to smoke a cigarette and talking about something else. Most of the time her dog does something funny where we both have to laugh about.

    I don’t know why, but when I read your reaction I had to think on the scene in the movie ‘Family Man’ where Nic Cage asks Tea Leoni: ‘Could you please stop yelling at me?’
    Maybe it’s just because I love this movie.

  9. MJ Doyle says:

    Love the mumble! I just had to respond to your comment about “Family Man”. One of my all-time favorite feel-good movies!

    Thanks for the laugh.

    • Mario says:

      I watched the scene at the airport approximately 35 times.

      “We have a house in Jersey….”

      Nic broke my heart with this!

  10. Sounds like I’m going to have to check this movie out guys!!!

    I’m normally quite up on my movie knowledge but it seems this one has slipped by me! :)

    Sam

    • Mario says:

      Samual,

      this movie is a must see. I made a 10 minute video on Nicolas Cage under the title ‘Caged Talent’ (within a post with the same title on my blog), where I’ve build in some scenes from The Family Man and Leaving Las Vegas.

    • Awesome, I’ll check out your video! I’m a big fan of the Cage… especially ‘Face Off’!
      Nice pun for your post by the way. :)
      Sam

  11. MJ Doyle says:

    Sorry, but I just have to ask. Are you using any particular plugin that makes your comments look so nice? Mine don’t look that great on my blog. Just wondering. (I like the colors and the reply option)

    • Hi,

      I’m using a custom stylesheet that I created to get it looking as it is (and for all the fonts and layout on the website in fact). You need a basic knowledge of CSS but it’s actually quite simple. I think the default filename for the file in question in wordpress is stylesheet.css and you can basically mess around with parts of the code at a time to get it looking how you like. I would only do this if you’re confident with what you’re editting though… and make sure to keep backups!

      If you want some extra help with any of it then feel free to e-mail me and I’ll point out the specific parts of the code to modify as well as some examples if you would like. :)

      Sam

  12. Mario says:

    @Samual, you’ll finde it on the sneezepage ;-)

  13. KeHoeff says:

    hey this is a very interesting article!

  14. JoJo says:

    Hi everyone,
    thanks for the info. Usually when me and my boyfriend argue, its always on something small and stupid but at that time it seems important. For example he tells me that he’s only gonna do one race on the ps3 grand turismo game then switch it off so that we can spend some time together. Instead he kept accesorising the car, which to me he didnt keep his word and was being selfish. I’m not saying that i wont let him do the things he likes, everyone needs his/her space and some time alone to do his/her hobby, which i let him play on it in the first place but then dont acceed that limit. When there’s something bothering us we usually show it by not looking at the other person and not talk to them till the other asks wat’s wrong then we spill out our problems.

    • Hi Jojo,

      I agree that hindsight always makes us view arguments differently. As you mention, in the moment the argument itself and getting those feelings off your chest probably seems more important than the bigger picture. Those feelings will obviously affect how everyone reacts at the time.

      It’s good that you and your boyfriend do eventually discuss whatever issues might be floating around. Dealing with arguments is all about closing the gap between those argument and reflection periods, until ultimately they overlap. This will negate the need for a cooling off period or purposefully not talking to each other.

      One thing I would say about the computer games example is to make sure that when you agree to spend time together that it is always mutually sincere. As you say, you don’t want your boyfriend to ever feel that you are being controlling or unreasonable. If you let your boyfriend know how it makes you feel when he does go back on that time you agreed to spend together, he should be able to make a more reasoned and honest decision about what he really wants to do at the time.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Sam

  15. JoJo says:

    Hi sam,
    Ther’s also another thing that bothers me. Whenever i’m angry at him for something he kinda makes a joke about it or says his oppinion or what he means to say and then i keep on pressing on the matter which then he turns it on me, meaning he gets angry at me then. Most of our arguments he turns it round and be angry at me which i was angry at him first. Why do u think guys do that? (or maybe some of them do)

    Thanks.
    Jojo

    • Hi again,

      I imagine his reaction has a lot to do with how you are expressing yourself to him. His joking initially sounds like an attempt to diffuse the argument. Arguing back when that does not work would be a method for regaining some control and dominance on the subject.

      Although your boyfriend is in control of how he reacts, there are a few things that you can do to help make those discussions more peaceful and reasonable, long before they become arguments. The first is keeping calm and rational so that an argument is never justified. The second is expressing your opinion as personal feelings without blame. As soon as someone feels “attacked”, it is natural to want to retaliate.

      I hope that helps,

      Sam

  16. JoJo says:

    Hi sam,
    I’ll try that, but he gets on my nurves when he does things he knows i get annoyed with just to tease me, although he doesnt mean to piss me off just playful teasing.

    Thanks for the help.

    Jojo

    • I know what you mean. You just have to remind yourself that it is only teasing and that you are in control of how you react. Thanks for using the website and do keep in touch. :)

      Sam