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Explain your anger, don’t express it, and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments. Unknown
Talking things out is a pathway to growth and problem-solving. It can also descend into arguments. It is not good to avoid conflict by withdrawal and stonewalling, it is not good if every discussion turns into an angry argument. We all argue, are there ways to do it more constructively?
The answer according to Barton Goldsmith is yes, and he gives his tips to argue correctly creating a pathway to growth and problem-solving.
- Understand that anger itself is not destructive. There is a vast difference between anger and rage. When someone is angry they need to state their feelings, they don’t break things or relationships – that is rageful behavior.
- Talk about your feelings before you get angry. When you or your partner can approach the situation as it happens and deal with it in a safe way, it may not get to the point of being an argument. Sometimes things just need to be verbalized and most arguments can be avoided if your partner understands how you feel.
- Don’t raise your voice. It’s amazing how issues of hurt feelings or differences can be resolved with a whisper. I counsel couples who are yellers to only communicate with a whisper and it greatly reduces the anger factor in their relationships.
- Don’t threaten your relationship. And don’t take every argument as a threat to your relationship. This type of emotional blackmail puts the other partner in a panic/flight or flight mode. While you’re telling them you want to leave, they may be making plans to find a roommate. In addition, they may be so devastated by the thought of losing their family they can go into a deep depression and be unable to give you what it is you need.
- Don’t stockpile. This is where you bring up issues from the past to use as a hammer against whatever problem your partner has asked for help with. Deal with their issue first and if you really have unresolved feelings from past problems talk about them at another time.
- Don’t avoid your anger. If you stuff your feelings long enough you will explode and say or do things that you will regret. Anger does not diminish love, you can be angry with those you love. In fact the ones we love hurt us the most because we love them the most.
- Create a process for resolving problems without anger. Start by each of you taking five minutes to state your feelings, then take a twenty-minute break to think about things and come back to the table for another ten minutes to discuss how you think you can best deal with the problem. Also, know that it’s okay if the problem doesn’t get solved right away.
- Abuse is NEVER allowed. This includes verbal abuse, any type of violence including slamming doors, breaking plates or hitting. If your arguments escalate to this level you need to leave the house. If one partner ever hits another a police report needs to be made and an appointment with a therapist is mandatory.
- Don’t engage. Remember that negative attention is still attention. If your partner tries to goad you into an argument, simply don’t go there. Some people actually like to argue because it gives them a temporary feeling of power and gratification. Avoid being sucked into their need for attention.
- Listen to your body. When you are angry your body releases chemicals that may cause you to react in ways that can be destructive to you, your partner and your relationship. Learn to understand your feelings and how the process of anger affects you physically and emotionally.
Research has shown that couples who argue more than twenty percent of the time are probably not going to survive.
Most couples don’t have hundreds of arguments; they have the same argument hundreds of times. It’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken; maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better. You can’t have a relationship without any fights, but you can make your relationship worth the fight… Unknown
How an argument unfolds is important. We need enough balance in our relationship that both partners feel they can talk about anything and everything. It isn’t good when one partner rants and raves and bullies, and the other partner shuts down. It is even worse if both partners shut down and stop bringing up problems altogether. When this happens we walk on eggshells and stay distant to avoid conflict.
We need to contain our arguments where they don’t turn into open warfare, and where we don’t bring up the past to fan the flames of our emotional fire. When we do this, hurtful things get said, sometimes arguments even get physical, and emotional and physical scars can be created that don’t go away, they just create more fear, resentment, and fuel for future arguments.
When the argument is over we need to make up. We can make mistakes at this point too.
One mistake is to pretend the argument didn’t happen. We get up, pour our coffee, and sweep everything under our already full rug.
Another mistake is we continue to punish our partner. We give them the silent treatment. We use passive-aggressive behaviors to rub salt in our partners wound.
Even if it isn’t about punishment but anxiety and awkwardness we should avoid the deep-freeze treatment because it creates a negative climate in the relationship as we create a who will give in the first environment. It is even worse if children are forced to endure this untenable situation and negative environment. They sometimes believe they are the problem.
Another mistake we make is not apologizing. We often don’t apologize because we believe we are saying their ridiculous accusations are correct and we are wrong. An apology is simply acknowledging that we hurt our partner’s feelings. We are taking responsibility for our part in the argument and maybe even for our part in the situation that created it. We did play a part even if all we did is get defensive and escalate the argument
How can we make our relationship better after an argument?
First, we need to cool off and get our rational brain back in control. If we talk too soon we may trigger another argument. Men it seems often take longer to cool down. We can acknowledge the other person by simply saying, “I’m still upset; I’m not trying to ignore you, I just need more time to cool off.”
Solve the problem that started the argument if that is possible. Many of us fall down at this point. We don’t solve the problem because we are worried discussing it will turn into another argument. Our challenge is to talk about it and solve the problem. We need to stay sane, move forward, and figure out a way to deal with the problem. Do we need to go through this loop a few times because of the situation?
We need to figure out what is the moral of the story of our argument. We want to fix the problem but we also want to learn what the argument can teach us about communication, and what’s the underlying source of the problem. We may be fighting about dishes in the sink, kids bedtimes and other sundry items but the underlying problem may be something else entirely, money, not spending enough time and attention with each other, old hurts we haven’t let go of.
What is the deeper issue underlying the problem? The dishes are not about the dishes but about feeling criticized, feeling we are doing more than our share, and our requests for help are dismissed. We need to do real soul searching to figure out the larger pattern, why did this trigger that argument, and what needs does our partner have we are not meeting? How empty is their love tanks?
Were we holding things in and something finally burst the damn and we finally blew up? Were we feeling disconnected from each other and developed the habit of picking fights to feel connected and energized? Our challenge is having the courage to be honest with our self and each other about what is really going on. What aren’t we discussing? What aren’t we fixing? What are we regretting? What emptiness are we feeling? How have we let our self or our partner down? How have they let us down? We need to deal with our anxiety and the reality of the situation instead of avoiding it. When we deal with it, we can make it better. It might not be better in the short time, it may take a while, but if we are both committed to figuring out the problems, fixing the problems, and meeting each other needs we can build a better marriage and relationship.
Is an argument an opportunity to analyze a problem, fix it, strengthen our marriage, and be closer to our partner?
Relationships include fights, jealousy, arguments, faith, tears, disagreements, but a real relationship fights through all that with love. Unknown