All couples argue. Happy couples argue just like unhappy couples. Despite what you might think arguing is not the leading cause of relationships failure. Arguing can actual be helpful at times. Anytime we are in close proximity to each other for long periods of time there is bound to be differences of opinion, points of view and/or values. Arguing can help us work out these differences.
It's not arguing itself that's the problem but how the argument affects our feelings of emotional connection in the relationship.
When I see a couple in my practice and they say that we don’t argue I am more concerned than if they say they frequently argue. This lack of arguing usually means that they are not talking or not talking about what is really bothering them. Both partners have withdrawn from the relationship and either can’t or won’t talk about their differences.
If arguing in and of itself isn't the problem then what is? What is the reason we argue over and over about the same thing? Why do we find ourselves asking "Why we even fighting about this?"
The answer to these questions is that you're not address the root cause of the argument.
Couples tend to fight over the surface issues but never address the underlying core emotional issue. You need to get to the heart of the matter. You have to look past the content and secondary emotions then ask how do I feel about what is being said.
Let say you and you partner are arguing over parenting issues. People can have very different beliefs on how to parent and it can be hard to decide which way is best. Truth is, you may never agree.
An easy solution to this problem is you and your partner could simply agree to disagree. Figure out who feels stronger about the issue, go with that and call it a day. Or, not.
What causes a topic like this to become such a big issue that it cause problems in the relationship? It has to do with how your left feeling about the message you think your hearing. One way you could interpret what your hearing is "we don't agree about this", but I feel you love,support and care for me. Though I may not be happy about it, let's find a compromise. A second way you could feel about what your hearing is that we don't see eye to eye on matters and that leaves me feeling alone and unsupported(a feeling I often experience in the relationship). I feel that we are not a "we" but a "you and I". You don't care about my views, opinion and concerns. When this occurs you will continue to argue, not because you don't agree, but because you begin to question if your loved, valued and cared about.
These are but two possible reason way you may feel in an argument. As you can imagine the second example is the one that can become damaging to the relationship. What's so damaging about this examples, or any others that makes you feel not important, cared about, valued, needed or wanted, is that it puts emotional distance between you and your partners.
It is when an argument, or anything for that matter, leads to a feeling of emotional disconnect and distance that couples have disagreements that can lead to the end of a relationship.
How then, can you argue constructively?
1. Understand that anger, frustration, being pissed off, anxiousness, worry or feeling along this spectrum are a secondary emotion. Ask yourself what I am angry, frustrated ... about.
2. Look for the underlying emotion of hurt/sadness, shame/guilt, or fear that is causing the secondary emotions and discuss this with you partner.
3. Do not argue when your angry, frustrated ... You can not practice the changes you want to make in the heat of battle. When we get physiologically aroused and the fight, flight or freeze response kicks in, the way our brains process information changes. Take a break and go back to the conversation when you're not as excited. See number 2.
4. When you take a break make sure you set a time when you will return. For example, "I'm to angry now to continue this conversation. Let's take a break and get back to it in a half hour." Half and hour is a good time because, though it take the body a fraction of a second to get aroused, it can take up to an hour to return to normal state. Half an hour will return you to a point where you can process information correctly. While taking a break see number 2.
5. Ask yourself if you or your partner are being critical, contemptuous, defensive or stonewalling. These four are very damaging to a relationship and need to be eliminated at all cost. If you or your partner is, see number 2
6. Stick to what is going on for me, what I am feeling. Express that and tell your partner what would help make it better. Humans are storytellers and the more descriptive you can be about your experience the better your partner will understand. See number 2 and paint a vivid picture for your partner.
7. The more "you" that is used in the conversation, the more defensive your partner will become. You do this, you don't do that leaves a person with no other option but to defend. Stick with number 2.
8. Don't assume your partner will just know or understand. Talking is not communication. At least not all of it. We take for granted that because we have been talking for so long that we can communicate properly. The biggest assumption that we make is that if I don't get feedback you understood me. Take the time to ensure your partner understand your, see number 2.
9. Leave room for compassion and empathy. You are hurting but leave some room to understand that your partner is hurting too. This can be hard to do but is important and worth the effort. Understand your partners, see number 2.
It is important to take the time to tell yourself, I believe that this person loves me but what they are saying hurts. ask yourself, could it be that I sent my message incorrectly and they don't understand it or I don't understand the message they are sending.
Try it out and let me know how this works for you.