Ideally, a good, productive argument leaves both parties feeling more understood and closer.
If you’re in a relationship and you have a pulse, you’re going to have disagreements with your partner. It’s inevitable. And, in my opinion, it is perfectly healthy to disagree, and even argue, with your partner as long as it is productive and safe. It isn’t helpful to have arguments that end in name-calling or saying things you regret later on.
When I work with couples, I emphasize that arguing in and of itself is not bad. Ideally, a good, productive argument leaves both parties feeling more understood and closer. So, how do we ensure that our disagreements with our partners don’t end up with doors slammed and curses exchanged? How do we do our best to make sure our disagreements end up with both people feeling closer and understood?
Before you argue, or even as you’re in the midst of arguing, ask yourself the following three things:
1. “Do I need a time-out before I say anything else?”
The amygdala is the part of our brain responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction; it is Grand Central for our emotional behavior. When we’re upset or in an argument, it gets fired up. It tells us to fight or to run… neither of which leads to a healthy or productive argument. If you find yourself really upset and unable to think clearly, it’s crucial to take a 20-minute time-out. Tell you partner that you need a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts and that you will come back to talk to them in about 20 minutes. Then take that time to breathe, cool down, and calm your amygdala down.
2. “Is it more important for me to be right, or to be happy?”
How often do you find yourself arguing fervently for your point of view? There seems to be nothing more important than convincing your partner to see or do things your way. If you notice this happening, try to stop and ask yourself if it really matters that he left the lights on again or if she bought the wrong bread. Do you really need to be right? Wouldn’t it feel better to let the small stuff go and be happy?
3. “Is it possible that there really isn’t a right or a wrong here, but just a difference of opinion?”
As you argue your position to your partner, stop and ask yourself if it could be possible that there isn’t a right or a wrong, but rather a different point of view. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective. Maybe he really does get quiet when his feelings are hurt or when he’s unsure of what to say. Maybe he isn’t trying to shut you out and ignore you after all. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy to stop and ask yourself these questions before you argue—but it will help you have calmer and more productive disagreements, ones in which you ideally understand your partner better and feel more understood by your partner.
Need support putting these ideas into practice? Join Gal and Liron in July or September 2015 for Love Made Simple: A Weekend Workshop for Couples Who Want MORE. You won’t want to miss this chance to connect with like-minded couples and gain skills to build a love that lasts!
Michele Waldman, MFTi
Whatever your reason for contemplating couples counseling, Michele Waldman will commit to you that couples therapy can help your relationship. She has helped couples that are unable or unwilling to communicate with one another become effective and clear communicators. She has counseled couples that are shut-down from years of pain and lack of trust learn to open up and trust one another again.