Does it seem that you and your significant other often end up in petty arguments?
At the end of a disagreement, is there a clear winner and loser?
When you don’t see eye-to-eye, does it lead to deeper conversations or divisions in the relationship?
No relationship is immune to the common stressors of life. It isn’t uncommon to find that one’s partner holds conflicting perspectives on an important issue, be it time and money, how to raise a family, or even roles within the household.
On the other hand, opposing viewpoints shouldn’t become opposing sides. If your conflicts create an adversarial environment rather than one of partnership, it is time to find a new rhythm!
Consider your objective. In the middle of just about any disagreement, you can try to gain control, or you can try to gain perspective.
Many couples find that they are stuck in an unproductive cycle focused on obtaining control. One partner approaches the other with the purpose of demonstrating his/her rightness, winning a struggle of wills, and ultimately gaining the upper hand. The other immediately resist this tactic, growing defensive, arguing his/her points, and refusing to lose dignity and control. Often habits like these stem from a concern of appearing deficient in some way or losing power in the relationship.
When two people refuse to find common ground in the heat of the battle, love becomes inconsequential. If the objective is always to control, neither party wins in the long run.
However, healthy couples will use a different system when caught in a disagreement. They listen intently with a focus on understanding each other’s viewpoint, even at the expense of a clean resolution. Partners who prioritize compassion over rightness will find a way for both parties to triumph. Releasing pride and power makes room for productive communication and deeper relationships.
Try to keep a few key items in mind during a disagreement, to gain a better perspective:
1. Be aware of your emotions. Avoid reacting in the heat of the moment. Speak calmly and maintain an appropriate volume and tone. If you find yourself struggling to maintain composure, it is okay to take a beat and walk around the block before continuing the conversation.
2. Be a good listener. Make eye contact, and do not interrupt. Focus on hearing your partner’s side without constructing counterarguments in your head. Ask questions to confirm that you understand his/her perspective.
3. Avoid rehashing past disputes or wrongdoings. This usually will only exacerbate the situation and often spiral into a full-blown war of words.
4. Show respect. Even if you are confronting what seems like wrongdoing, there is a considerate way to proceed. Try using “I” messages, emphasizing your emotions rather than blaming your partner. (IE: “I feel worried when you come home late from work without calling.”)
5. Apologize for your part. Perhaps you aren’t a primary transgressor. Maybe you are even right, in this situation. Still take time to examine your actions/ reactions to see if there is any fault and be willing to take responsibility for any wrongdoing.
If you and your loved one are in the habit of battling for control, you CAN break the cycle. Reframe your objective before the next discussion and proceed with the sole purpose of understanding your partner’s viewpoint. Managing your emotions, listening purposefully, avoiding old arguments, showing respect, and taking responsibility will set the tone for a productive disagreement. Even if you don’t find a clean resolution, by building a stronger bond with your significant other, you might just feel you won anyhow.