Fighting Fair Requires Ground Rules
At some point in time, there is a high likelihood that you are your better half are going to have an argument. In fact, some research suggests that some couples will argue as many as 312 times in a year! Part of being in a relationship with someone means that from time to time, there are going to be disagreements. But how do you prevent a couples argument from turning into a full on, nasty fight?
Some causes of arguments are pettier than others to be sure. One of the biggest reasons a lovers sometimes quarrel can be traced to domestic reasons, such as stubble in the sink or a hogging up the remote control. Other triggers however are a bit more serious, such as concerns over infidelity and problems with intimacy. Regardless of why an argument starts, there are some basic things that both parties in the relationship can do to prevent a disagreement from transforming into a nasty, drag out fight.
What follows are five conflict management tips that you are your other half should consider before going at one another over a specific issue. Are you ready to learn some basic skills for couples arguments? Let’s jump right in!
1. Stick to the topic
This tip means exactly what is says – stick to the topic of the disagreement. No gunnysacking allowed. Not familiar with this term? Gunny sacking is a term used to describe a person who has stored up a bunch of old grievances and then unpacks them from the sack during an argument. If you or your significant other has a history dragging in old baggage, you may want to read our article on how to improve communications.
2. Leave other people out of it
One of the big reasons couples find arguments escalating into major blowouts can be traced to the bad habit of bringing other people into the argument. We recognize here at Couples Counseling Center that sometimes, outside sources, such as in-laws, necessarily need to be part of a disagreement. But unless there is a concrete reason to invoke the name of another person, both parties need to agree to leave other people out of it.
3. Don’t say things you don’t mean
In the heat of an argument, it is easy to blurt out things from a place of anger. This happens when one or both parties in the relationship are hurt or if someone is being emotionally abusive. Just remember though that once the words escape your mouth, they cannot be taken back. On this point, it is important that neither person make any type of threat. Here, we are talking about cutting someone off or promising to follow through on something nasty. When someone makes a threat, it means a gauntlet has been thrown down. Is this really the best way to argue?
4. Practice active listening
You may have heard of this concept before but it is worth repeating. Active listening basically means that you let your other half speak. It also means you occasionally put yourself in their shoes and ask questions. Paraphrasing what your partner has said helps to demonstrate that you are truly listening to what is being said.
5. Be ready to call a time out
Sometimes, a couples argument can become so heated that continuing the discussion will only cause a bad problem to become worse. This is particularly true when shouting is involved or when one or both people recognize their blood is starting to boil. In these situations, it is important to call upon the basic components of anger management techniques and call a time out. Should you decide to employ the time out option, bear in mind that at some point, the discussion will continue. Many couples find creating a 15-minute “step away” time helpful with preventing an argument from spiraling out of control. They also help to stop one person in the relationship from going into shut-down mode.
There isn’t a couple on the planet that hasn’t had an argument during the lifespan of their relationship. In fact, occasional disagreements from time to time can be a healthy way of working through various challenges.
Sadly, many couples lack the necessary experience to engage in what is commonly referred to as fair fighting – an approach to arguing which can help to prevent divorces and breakups. One resource to learn more about fighting fair is a book called Fight Fair by Tim and Joy Downs. Inside, you will find page after page of useful, practical information on how to have disagreements with your mate without someone ending up sleeping on the couch.
If you are interested in learning more about how to improve communications in your relationship, we encourage you to think about couples therapy. During the counseling process, you and your partner can discover new things about one another while also gaining better insight into what triggers disagreements.
Some people find it helpful to come in for one on one relationship counseling because they need a safe space to talk about things with a neutral, outside party who can offer meaningful insight. To learn more about how counseling might help you and your relationship, give us a call at 773-598-7797 or send us a confidential note using our online contact form.