Arguing in healthy relationships. What you need to know

In relationships, it is inevitable that disagreements will occur. After all, everyone is unique, with their strengths, weaknesses, and perceptions. An argument occurs in a relationship when two partners differ in these kinds of areas.

Is it normal for couples to fight? Absolutely. Arguing in solid relationships is not only normal but, if done in a respectful way, can actually be healthy.

So if your relationship hits a rough patch, don’t immediately chalk it up to irreconcilable differences. Each partner is entitled to his or her opinions. What’s important isn’t so much the disagreement as how you go about resolving it.

While not every relationship is built to last forever, an argument doesn’t necessarily prove you’re on the wrong path — quite the opposite. Disagreements present an opportunity to learn and to know your partner better, which can ultimately strengthen your connection.

Here are a few tips on how you can turn a disagreement into a growth point.

Listen, listen, listen

It’s so tempting during an argument not to listen but to simply wait for your turn to talk. Like a game of tennis, you’re planning how to get the conversational ball back over the net to score your next point.

But that’s not an effective strategy for resolving an argument. Instead, listen to make sure you understand where your partner is coming from. Then, to demonstrate that you’ve been listening and to push the conversation forward in a healthy way, mirror their statements back.

For example: “You’ve said you don’t want to cook dinner tonight, and I understand that my desire for you to cook is causing frustration.” This can not only create a more productive means of dialogue but can lower the proverbial temperature on the argument since it shows that you’re listening and have their interests in mind.

Pay attention to tone

You can only control what you can control. That timeless bit of advice is a cliché for a reason. If you feel an argument brewing, take a moment not to rush into it or let irritation, anger, or your need to “win” overtake you. Instead, try to take a pause and examine the situation objectively.

For example, think about the tone of your voice. Is it sharp or condescending, or is it more neutral or generous? This goes for volume as well. Are you raising your voice, and if so, why? Remember that it’s not always what you say but how you say it.

Set a time limit (and other boundaries)

Most people are familiar with the argument that goes on for hours, days, or even longer. Don’t let it reach that level! At a certain point, you and your partner will be simply chasing your tails and may be less likely to reach a positive resolution.

In your head or with your partner, set up a time boundary at the beginning. If you find yourself droning on with an extended rant, try to reign yourself in. If your partner is doing the same when the time is right consider gently bringing the conversation back inside the time boundary.

While you’re at it, perhaps consider setting up a few other boundaries as well. For example, certain trigger words or names could be taken off the table. Giving commands is another action that could be banned in the name of having a more productive argument.

Find the (real) cause of the argument

An argument over whose turn it is to mow the lawn is not really about grass. Rather, it’s about respect or any number of other emotions that lie below the surface of a relationship — but that are critically important to understanding and strengthening the bond between partners.

So as an argument unfolds, in a gentle and non-judgmental way, try to discern what’s really causing your partner’s reaction, rather than simply trying to superimpose your wants or needs on top of theirs. What is the real emotion that’s causing the friction, and how can this emotional need be met?

These are just some of the tips and tactics you can use to make sure your next argument is one that is healthy and productive. Remember that a disagreement need not become a fight, as long as both partners are dedicated to hearing each other out and addressing the issue at hand, rather than simply pointing out the other partner’s faults or shortcomings.

Try to keep in mind that you are both in this relationship for a reason. If it is strong, it will last through arguments, as long as you keep your toolbox open and are dedicated to listening and solving problems, instead of imposing your will or getting your way.

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