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October 23, 2018 - Welcome Guest!


Arguing and Relationships
Ground rules for constructive fighting
1. Don't try to avoid confrontation at all costs. This results in piling up of unresolved anger and frustration on both parts. Sulking and denial do not accomplish anything and they hurt your partner because s/he might interpret your avoidance as lack of interest. Besides, bottled up frustration finds its way out, one way or another. If you don't approach it openly, it will emerge as little ironic remarks, bickering and other not-so-cute unpleasantries.
2. Timing is important. Don't start an argument just before you are supposed to go to bed or somewhere else. Arguing in front of other people, especially children, but also relatives and friends, is a very bad idea. Need an outside opinion? See a therapist - s/he will be thrilled to see you in action, and it will give you guys plenty of material to work on. Allow sufficient time to collect yourselves and to recover your composure after the fight.
3. Take the fight seriously and do not discount the importance of what is being discussed. Avoid irony all together. Do not hit below the belt and attack your partner's relatives, friends, work or hobbies. Do not over-generalize (avoid "never" and "always" statements). Do not threaten with breakup or divorce as a means of intimidation. Try not to overreact and keep things in perspective.
4. Announce that you want to fight or discuss a touchy issue. Define clearly what you are fighting about. Examine if there are underlying issues. For example, when you fight over dishes, you might be really fighting about the distribution of power in your couple. If that is the case, address it directly.
5. Bringing up old conflicts or many new unrelated issues is a mistake that results in an overwhelmingly long, exhausting fight. Stay focused, and learn when enough is enough.
6. When handling disagreements, it pays off to first find common ground. Pointing out things that you can agree on creates a bridge and installs a working atmosphere that focuses on the common goal, rather than the disagreements.
7. Tell your partner clearly what is on your mind. Don't try to hide your emotions. It's normal to get emotional, and it's healthy to let the emotions out, positive and negative. Play fair but tolerate and support emotional outbursts - this vulnerable time is an exceptional occasion for mutual support and bonding.
8. When arguing, do not attack your partner's character, criticize specific behaviors. While character traits are difficult to change, specific behaviors are amenable to modification. Try to phrase your criticism in such a way that you express your disagreement with your partner's action, as opposed to a character trait. For example, instead of saying, "You are such a lousy father", say, "I disagree with the way you reprimand our kids because yelling scares them." Or, instead of saying, "You never spend any time with me anymore," say, "I miss spending time with you."
9. Practice good listening. Don't make assumptions and quick interpretations of your partner's motives. In order to ensure correct understanding, rephrase your partner's points in your own words. It may seem lame at first but you will see that some of your interpretations are way off. Rephrasing will help you to stay on track. If nothing else, at least you will be talking about the same thing.
10. Try to understand how your partner sees the situation. Put yourself in her/his shoes. Ask your partner for his version of the story and listen with an open mind. We tend to focus on our interpretation of events. We make hypotheses about our partners' motives. And we might be wrong. Try to put yourself into your partner's shoes and his/her points might become much clearer. You should understand that your partner has the right to see things differently, and even if her/his view of the situation seems skewed, his/her feelings are real. Validate them.
11. Paying your partner a compliment or expressing your appreciation for something s/he does well goes a long way. It takes off a lot of fume and enables the other person to accept criticism much more willingly. Praise your partner - tell him/her what you like about her/him. This is especially useful in the final phase of the fight, which should contain peace offering. It is a perfect transition back to normal and an opportunity to make the fight a positive experience.
12. While it is normal to get a little bit worked up during an argument, it is not a good idea to let it spin out of control and turn it into a shouting match where no listens anymore. When you get too furious, or when the argument gets out of control, take a break. It should be at least 20 min. Set a specific time, not too far away, for continuation.
13. Be ready to compromise. Unless it is a real bottom-line issue, you can find an arrangement. For instance, let's say that your partner is grumpy when s/he get back home from work. It has been bothering you because you feel like it's your fault. You confront him/her and realize that s/he does not really want to change anything about that; in a way, s/he enjoys her/him 30 min of grumping; and in any case, s/he would find it very difficult to control it. You might have doubts about this ritual grumping, but you cannot make him/her change his/her ways. What you can do, however, is to agree that the grumping ritual will be performed out of your eyesight - in a study, garage, workshop, bathroom or bedroom. That way, s/he can knock her/himself out with grumping, and you don't get upset.
14. Admit your own mistakes. Take responsibility for your own actions. Your partner will become less defensive when s/he sees that you are not blaming everything on him/her.
15. Be open to suggestions. Try to view the arguing as an opportunity to grow. You are not perfect, neither is your partner. Since you fight anyway, why not turn it into a positive experience and help each other grow?
16. Do not withdraw prematurely by apologizing, pretending to agree with your partner's stance or accepting blame and responsibility for something you haven't done.
17. Some issues just can't be solved in one fighting session. If you encounter such a complex issue (such as infidelity or power struggle), make sure that you both understand that the topic will have to be addressed again and again. Set a schedule and declare a cease-fire in between.
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