IS ARGUING BAD FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
HELEN DERBYSHIRE - 5 MINUTE READ
The term arguing tends to have a negative connotation, but what if I told you that it could be transformative for your relationship if done correctly? When we think about arguing we think of raised voices, hurtful words exchanged, apologies (not always), and usually one if not both people left feeling upset, low and hurt.
Regardless of the way you argue it is still a method of communication. One of you, or both of you have something on your mind that you have to express, however the way in which you express it may be counterproductive for the desired outcome.
A very important point to make here is that sometimes you will be upset, pissed off and hurt and therefore emotions will be high and if you do not have the communication skills to express those emotions and thoughts, it may come out as those raised voices and frustration. However on the flip side, you or somebody you know may be the type of person who refuses to argue and disagree which can also be extremely difficult for you / the other person if you or they need a place to express themselves. Suppression of feelings, thoughts and emotions may lead to resentment within your relationship so it’s so important that you always hold space for such conversations regardless of how difficult they are to have (and vice versa, you should always be given a space to express yourself within your relationship).
Arguing should never be seen as taboo, bad or wrong. However, hurtful words exchanged and the game of who can win, should be avoided. So let’s get into that…
In all instances they will be vice versa, you may be the one who does these things so be mindful what to look out for in both yourself, your partner and your relationship as a whole. Your partner has done or said something that upset you, perhaps you bottled it up, or you let it blow straight away (which usually is because of an accumulation of things that rub you the wrong way / hurt or upset you built up overtime causing the explosion of emotions). This build up causes deeper emotions to fester, perhaps you felt a little annoyed initially, and now you feel resentful, you start to look at all of the other things they do and do not do within your relationship, and now you’ve really frustrated so you say “I’m sick of you always doing X, why do you never do ___” and it comes out as a verbal attack. What happens then is your partner feels extremely attacked, which gets their back up and you go back and forth in this game of hurtful word ping pong, they react to your attack, you say something more hurtful, they tell you they can’t do this anymore, you think how dare you say that when THEY are the one who caused the problem initially, so you one-up them desperate to get your point across, and this back and forth continues until one of you is so hurt you break down, walk away or just continue until you’re quite frankly emotionally exhausted.
Regardless of how long it takes for you to make up again, perhaps you don’t even apologise and you go back to normal life or perhaps you agree to disagree or one of you forces the other to admit they’re wrong and the other surrenders. Regardless of the outcome, you’re left feeling unsatisfied and the intimacy within your relationship (not sexual intimacy) just connection has been impacted. You then are fearful in the future to have further disagreements in case they end the way the last interaction did so you start to suppress even more and the cycle continues. This is because there is a potential trust issue between you both, trust that the other will not threaten to end the relationship for example, which is why you may avoid conflict. It is important that you both work together to create a SAFE space where you can both freely express yourselves regardless of how difficult that may be for you or the other person to hear those thoughts and feelings.
What makes arguing (communication) helpful, productive and beneficial is realising you are both on the same team, even if the other did something that really pissed you off, you want to work together to express how that made you feel and for your partner to listen and support and make you feel good again (and vice versa).
Here are my top 10 tips for arguing (communicating) effectively within a relationship…
1. Working as a TEAM - this is not a competition of who is right or wrong, sometimes you’re both right and sometimes you’re both wrong, it shouldn’t matter if you’re both wanting to work towards the goal of a peaceful relationship
2. Be solution focused
3. You must have self awareness - awareness of how you communicate
4. Talk in a way that resonates with your partner - yours and your partner's needs may be totally different, this needs to be considered when we want to get a point across.
5. Use I statements instead of YOU. “ I feel sad / frustrated / hurt when you do / do not do X” is much better than “You hurt me when you did X”. Although it feels very similar, you and your partner are always likely to receive this better
6. Use empathy and compassion when communicating, try and zoom out from your point of view and try and see it from a different perspective, you may be able to see that yes your partner hasn’t been helping you around the house for example, but they have been really stressed with work. Now that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be supporting you, but it does allow you to lead with compassion. For example “I know you have been really busy / stressed with work lately, I am feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs doing around the house”.
7. Never invalidate your partner's feelings or allow them to do the same to yours. Even if you think what they feel or say is ‘irrational, silly, or them being ‘insecure’, you / they do not get to decide how you are feeling. Try replying to your partner's thoughts and feelings with “I can appreciate that is difficult for you” for example rather than “OMG that is ridiculous”.
8. Work on creating a SAFE space. A safe space is where things can be said and expressed without the other one interrupting the other, or reacting to what the other person has said.
9. Even if your partner really hurts your feelings by expressing themselves, it doesn’t authorise for you to attempt to hurt them back (and vice versa) and if you ever experience this, respond “I know what I said may have been difficult for you to hear, however your hurtful words are not beneficial to this argument and I will be taking myself out of this situation if you continue to use such words against me” (or words to that effect).
10. If you find it difficult to maintain your cool within a disagreement, or if your partner struggles whilst you work on your communication skills. Perhaps you both have a ‘take a break’ strategy. Perhaps this is a word you can use, a phrase you can use or a simple explanation of “when we spoke about disagreements in the past, we agreed when it became heated we would walk away and revisit later, for me this is becoming heated so I’m going to take myself out of the situation, this doesn’t mean I am ignoring what you have to say but right now, it’s becoming really difficult for me”. Likewise if your partner says this back to you, just know they are not abandoning you, they are just taking a breather for the outcome of a calmer discussion at a later time. This is actually a BONUS and a huge sign of good communication skills.
Step 1: Develop your self awareness of how you are truly feeling
Step 2: Think about the situation and think about how a solution could be found prior to communicating with your partner (you could always spend time journaling about this first)
Step 3: Use I statements when expressing your needs/wants/frustrations
Step 4: Lead with compassion
Step 5: Propose a solution or find one together
Step 6: Always remember that hurtful words are not beneficial to the outcome - Remember, you are on the same team!
Step 7: Not every attempt at communication will result in finding a solution, you may need to revisit it, one of you may become upset and that’s ok and totally normal!