Every relationship has its ups and downs. Arguments in a relationship are certainly part of that.
Have you ever felt yourself getting heated in a discussion with a loved one? There are plenty of hot topics in the world to go around: politics, racial issues, religion, etc. Even pop culture news can end up being pretty contentious topics from time to time. Sometimes having these provocative conversations can leave you or your partner feeling resentful, no matter the topic. But, having arguments doesn’t mean that you have to end a relationship altogether.
Here are some helpful tips to handle arguments in a relationship.
Try Living by the Golden Rule
In any argument in a relationship there should be some basic ground rules no matter what the topic at hand is. My go-tos are to refrain from name-calling and raising your voice no matter how tough the discussion gets. If your goal is to get through the conversation without damaging the relationship beyond repair, following the golden rule of “treat others how you want to be treated” reigns supreme. Unfortunately, many couples find themselves traveling down a slippery slope of name calling and shouting which can lead to really hurtful words. You can’t take those back no matter how hard you try.
Ask yourself, will it matter a few days from now?
A wise friend of mine introduced me to this idea of asking yourself, “Will it matter a few days from now?” as a good screening tool on whether or not to address arguments in a relationship.
Imagine there’s a conversation brewing about how Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Will being right matter to you a week from now? If not, it’s probably best to move on and limit your input in the conversation all together. However, if Pluto’s planetary status has some immediate relevance to your life’s work, you may want to let yourself further advocate for your position.
Handling arguments in a relationship is, in part, deciding what feels worthy of a fight or not. Sometimes waving the white flag in battle is the best choice.
If You Are Worried About Winning & Losing
At some point, you will likely find that you and your verbal sparring partner have somehow devolved into just talking in circles. This is a critical moment in any argument. When the conversation hits that wall, it’s important to stop and ask yourself,”Is winning this argument the most important thing right now?” If winning IS what you’re after, it is definitely time to take a break. Unfortunately, if you are very competitive, winning an argument might bode well for your self-esteem but not necessarily for the stability of your relationship. Nobody likes a sore winner. And if you find yourself focusing on always winning, perhaps therapy might help you find the root of that and work through it.
Call a Time Out
Time outs aren’t just helpful for sports and misbehaving little kids. They’re good for arguments in a relationship too.
When we are in the throes of a highly provocative conversation, we may find ourselves being triggered or reminded of some past relationship issues or complicated, deeper feelings. This is very common! When you find that your body gets more tense and you’re unable to maintain a relaxed-assertive stance, it’s best to put the conversation to rest. If the issue is something that’s destined to linger in your relationship, then pick it back up later when you’re feeling a bit more balanced and rational. Taking a break will do wonders in maintaining the health of your relationship.
It can be incredibly difficult to maintain your cool once you find yourself in a heated discussion that you’re passionate about. However, sometimes we can get too passionate in these moments and lose sight of the bigger picture; that we have a relationship that we would like to hold on to. With these few tips, I hope that you see that there is a way to “win” in every argument. Ultimately, you want to be able to foster a relationship that promotes honesty and healthy disagreement. If you choose to honor the relationship between you and your conversation partner above all else, you will win every argument, guaranteed.
If you’re looking to work with a relationship coach to build your communication skills, visit Viva Wellness to join our mailing list for more information on how to work with us!
An earlier version of this post appeared on the Good Men Project.
Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.