10 Healthy Ways Partners Fight Fair
10 Warnings Signs that Arguing is Hurting Your Relationship and What to Do About It
As we grow up, each of us learns that there are many ways to approach an argument. We can fight — persist, badger and raise the volume — until we get our way. We can try to avoid it entirely by giving in, or keeping mute about issues. Some couples may find themselves stuck in a pattern of ‘fighting all the time.’ When arguing doesn’t solve anything, withdrawal can set in — a habit of turning away from each other for self-preservation.
It is sad when couples see their partner as someone to avoid, someone to change or someone who is on the ‘other side.’ But there is real reason to believe couples can shift from opposition to kindler gentler problem solving that has powerful positive outcomes. Deep down, each of you most likely wants to help each other reach your goals, individually and as a couple. Arguing successfully helps you both find solutions — and be happier together — when it comes to facing important issues.
Arguing As an Opportunity to Understand
Fortunately, it is possible to learn how to work together and resolve issues without damaging your happiness. Studies of couples who remain happy even though they argue show us that being emotionally present and caring are essential. When caring actions and expressions outweigh negative ones (by at least 5 to 1), couples are able to protect and preserve their love for each other through their conflict.
Learning what healthy arguing looks like can help each of us see which of our own thoughts and actions are not serving us well – and which help us feel better. Couples can learn to seek out more positive ones that build the love both partners both want.
Here are 10 warning signs of conflict management trouble, and 10 healthy signs to aid conflict management success:
Conflict Management: 10 Danger Signs and 10 Healthy Signs
|Warning Signs||Healthier Signs|
|1. I have to have my way or I won’t be happy||We can talk this through and find a way that works for both of us|
|2. My partner’s point of view is usually a problem and source of disagreement||We can listen respectfully to each other, discuss and accept our differences|
|3. I bring up issues in real time, when I need to vent or get them off my mind||We find time to talk together when we are both calm enough and available|
|4. I insist, argue cajole, and persist until I win out||I am willing to be influenced by my partner’s point of view|
|5. My ideas and solutions are the best way to solve issues –||I can be open to asking from my partner’s opinion and learning what my partner thinks (whether or not I agree with it)|
|6. I cannot reason with my partner||I can invite my partner to explain his or her thinking and feelings about an issue, and learn to understand my partner’s position|
|7. I have to keep my emotions to myself; I don’t feel safe expressing what I really think and feel||I can explain how I think and feel the way I do, and I will feel heard, whether my partner agrees with me or not|
|8. My partner does not understand how I feel, nor seems to want to try; arguing seems to increase our emotional disconnect||I feel we are emotionally attuned to each other — “Being there” for each other is important to both of us; we experience moments of connection|
|9. I usually win out in the end||We can’t always fix everything; sometimes we agree to disagree|
|10. I get frustrated and angry when I see my partner does not share my point of view||I can see the values and thoughts I like and believe are good in my partner’s point of view|
Much of our knowledge about warning signs and healthy signs in relationships emerged through studies by one of the most influential marriage therapists and researchers of our time: Dr. John Gottman. Concerned about higher divorce rates, Gottman devoted decades to studying how couples interact to determine what makes couples “masters” of loving partnership, or relationship “disasters”.
Seeing these warning signs does not necessarily spell doom for couples. It depends on what each person decides to do about them when responding to their partner. Knowing which habits keep love strong shows us how we can feed and nurture the intimacy we want in our lives.
Arguing is an important opportunity couples use to see the other person’s perspective. All types of partners can help this understanding happen. When discord happens, It takes hard work to apply healthier thoughts and actions to deepen their connection.
When couples find ways to see and respect each person’s thoughts and feelings, they find a relationship that rewards them with greater closeness and creativity.
When Therapy Helps
When patterns of angry pursuit or self-defensive withdrawal have formed, couples may find they are stuck having more negative than positive arguments. This is when a good couples therapist can help.
Therapy helps by showing couples how to:
- Move from insistence to discussion
- Shift from one-sided solutions to ideas generated together
- Open to the influence of each other
- Invite openness from each other
- Move from feeling frustrated and critical to seeing the good in each other
- Decrease the number of interactions that feel bad, and increase those that feel better
- Figure out which problems are solvable
- Go from seeing competing goals to finding shared goals
Emotions need a safe place to be seen, honored and held. Therapy can help couples learn to allow and experience more positive moments of emotional connection together. Couples can argue and still keep trust and protect their love for each other.
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