Contrary to popular belief, healthy couples do fight. Arguments are part of life, but not all couples know how to fight fair, and those below-the-belt moments can end up doing more harm to a relationship than most people think. So how do you argue in a way that’s actually going to help your relationship? Read on to find out how to disagree in a healthy way so your relationship can stay strong.
Don’t lose your temper. As difficult as it can be to keep your cool, it’s important to try and keep a lid on your temper during an argument. If you lose it, you’re more likely to hit below the belt. You’re more likely to resort to behavior that can be potentially hurtful in the long term, like name-calling or making venomous comments. Try to practice some well-known anger management techniques if you feel like you’re starting to lose it, such as taking a few deep breaths or leaving the room for a few minutes.
Stay focused on one issue. When you’re having an argument with your partner, try to stay focused. If you’ve got a lot of built-up anger, you’ll probably want to bring up a million things. But a fight where you’re throwing everything that’s happened in the last 10 years at each other isn’t likely to get resolved. Remember the specific issue you’re arguing about and stay focused on that.
Don’t bring up things that have already been resolved. In addition to staying focused on a single issue, you want to especially avoid bringing up past problems that have been resolved. If your partner made a mistake and apologized for it, don’t bring it up again to throw in their face because it supports your point. You’ll never move forward if you hold past mistakes that have been dealt with against them.
Open up about your feelings. To argue with your SO in a healthy way, don’t be afraid to open up about your feelings. Phrase your words in a way that highlights how you’re feeling, to try and help your partner see where you’re coming from. Rather than saying, “You made this comment which was totally out of line,” try saying, “You made this comment which made me feel like X.” Getting those feelings off your chest will help you to feel better. Plus, you might help your partner to empathize with your position.
Be respectful. The most important thing to remember when fighting with your partner is respect. No matter how angry you are with each other, remember that you’re ultimately a team. You are on the same side and you do love each other. So you need to respect each other. That means avoiding unacceptable behavior, such as name-calling. Don’t interrupt them and listen carefully to what they’re saying. Treat them with the same courtesy you’d have with anyone you admire.
Schedule the argument in advance. Some relationship experts believe that scheduling an argument in advance can actually be an effective way to have it out with your partner. The truth is that there are better times to fight than others. It’s not a good idea to argue before a family birthday party or a work meeting, for example. Plus, by penciling in time for an argument, you won’t be ambushing your partner.
Acknowledge any common ground. When you’re fighting with your partner, it can feel like they’re the enemy. But if you can, try to find some common ground. You might disagree on a lot, but also look for the things you agree with them about. Maybe you don’t appreciate what they did, but you can understand why they did it. Whenever you understand each other, tell each other that. It will strengthen the bond you have and encourage you both to lower your defenses.
Know when to take a break. They say you should never go to bed angry. But according to some relationship gurus, there are certain times when you should be going to bed with unresolved issues. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to find a resolution to an argument in a single night. Maybe emotions are running too high because the issue is still raw. Or maybe one of you is super tired or a little drunk. In those situations, it’s better to sleep on it and come back with a clear head.
Don’t make threats. Threats have no place in a healthy argument. In the heat of the moment, you might feel like telling your partner that you’ll leave if they don’t apologize. But threats like that have the power to make your partner feel unsafe and insecure in your relationship, in the long term. Besides, you don’t want an apology if the person apologizing isn’t actually sorry and is only trying to meet your demands.
Apologize when you’re out of line. We all make mistakes sometimes. If you have done something wrong, own it and apologize. Remember that you love your partner and your goal isn’t to hurt them. So say sorry. Sometimes, this is all it takes to end an argument in a healthy way. Then follow through with the apology by actually changing your behavior and not continuing to make the same mistakes.