The honeymoon phase of a relationship is phenomenal, but it’s also blinding. No relationship, no matter how healthy, can survive on cloud 9 (Mount Olympus?) forever without a few bumps along the way. And if you’ve had any experience with relationships, you’ll know that when the honeymoon phase is over, it hits hard. Arguing and having disagreements will happen. It’s inevitable. In fact, “arguing can be a sign that your relationship is strong and passionate, and that you’re comfortable enough to express negative feelings without fear of losing each other in the process,” explains Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up. However, arguing in a healthy, constructive way is MUCH easier said than done.
For better or worse, men and women have a tendency to speak in code sometimes. We women will say “we never go out anymore” when what we really mean is that we miss spontaneity, and date night, and feeling “special” as opposed to feeling comfortable. We gravitate toward the word “fine” when we should be saying “don’t you even think about doing that or I won’t speak to you for a month.” In return, men will croon “stop nagging,” when you should really be saying “I heard you the first time.” The stark divide between some things that women (and men!) say, and what they mean, is insane, and this miscommunication, when not addressed properly, can be tragic. While we can’t always help saying things with hidden meanings, there are definitely many more proactive ways to address a relationship roadblock. The next time a relationship argument gets out of hand, follow these 7 guidelines to steer the conversation in the right direction, and keep your love stronger and healthier than ever.
1. STOP EVERYTHING AND TAKE A BREATHER FIRST
This is crucial. If you feel like you’re on the verge of a full-blown argument with your significant other (SO), stop everything and take some time to calm down, deal with your stress, and allow them to do the same. Skipping this step can lead you to do or say something you’ll regret. Remember that there are two things to deal with in every argument—the actual problem, and your emotions in the heat of the moment. Deal with the latter first.
2. PICK YOUR FIGHT CAREFULLY
Once you return to the conflict, ask yourself, is this fight really worth having? If it’s an argument over responsibilities, such as forgetting for the tenth time in a row to wash the dishes, maybe this is a fight you should stand down on. The solution is easy, so find it. If the argument is more deeply rooted, and one of you is under emotional stress because of jealousy, a bump in the relationship, or something even more serious like suspicions of cheating, then yes, it’s time the two of you sit down and start talking.
3. GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
If you’ve hit full-blown argument status, now is not the time to keep speaking in code and beating around the bush. Speak your mind, and express your issues, concerns, and opinions. Now is the time to lay everything out on the table. Anything you don’t explicitly say that still bothers you once the argument is over is your fault if you didn’t discuss it when you had the chance.
4. STAY RELEVANT!
Arguments get emotional. Try your hardest to stick to what your argument is about so you can resolve it. If you’re fighting about feeling neglected or not getting invited to something, don’t bring up unrelated issues or suddenly blurt out, “well maybe you should go invite your ex from college” or something else that doesn’t even remotely relate to the present discussion. Further, if one of you goes off-topic, do your part to reign the conversation back in the right direction.
5. AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS
Name-calling, one-upping, and muttering profane insults under your breath may feel good in the moment, but vulgar personal attacks will not get you anywhere. Women will remember every insulting thing you call them or say about them, so try your hardest to remain calm and collected. Otherwise, the insult you yelled during this altercation might be fuel for a fight later on down the line. Hopefully, if one of you is calm and mature, the other will follow suit.
6. APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU’RE WRONG, AND WHEN IT’S NOT WORTH IT TO BE RIGHT
Sometimes, a fight gets so out of hand and drawn out when it doesn’t have to be. If you are wrong, just apologize. If you’re right
but the fight isn’t worth all the heartache and strain, maybe this is the one fight you need to be the bigger person about, apologize for the stress or pain they experienced, and try to move forward.
7. TALK ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENCES EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT FIGHTING
This is a must. In order to prevent, or at least drastically reduce, the fighting in your relationship, try to have open discussions on a regular basis about your differences, things that may bother you, and issues that you need to see eye-to-eye on. The bigger the foundation of understanding you lay, the less likely a raging argument is to occur.
Arguments are unavoidable. You and your SO are two different people with unique perspectives and beliefs. Having different opinions keeps things interesting. But the next time you get frustrated with one another, adhere to these guidelines to keep the conversation constructive. Who knows? Maybe your days of banishing each other to the couch will soon be a thing of the past.