Afraid of Conflict? Don't Be!
Arguments in a relationship can be a good thing, if done correctly. There are a few key strategies that successful couples use to have fair, loving, and respectful arguments. Remember, how you approach an argument is key.
Never Run From Confrontation
Couples who are not afraid to ask the “Big Questions” or tackle the “Tough Topics”, are couples who can head off potential drama or trouble down the road. By facing difficult things head-on instead of sweeping them under the rug, couples are better able to compromise and put a plan in place together to address the situation. If you can defuse a potential problem, why wouldn’t you?
Safety In Structure
When couples set guidelines and boundaries for their arguments, they feel safer because they know what to expect. The guidelines could be as simple as taking turns talking and listening, agreeing not to participate in any derogatory name calling, and agreeing not to raise their voices. Calm heads will always prevail. I’m sure we have all lost our cool before. But, when you look back at those heated arguments, were they productive? What was the end result? Was anything resolved?
Time-Outs and Cool-Down Periods
The length of a cool-down period should be decided on by both parties while putting your argument guidelines together. Toddlers are very familiar with time-outs. We give our children time-outs so they can reflect on what they did or said that was wrong. It’s a time to sit quietly without interruption and think about what they did. It also teaches them that in life there are consequences for their behavior, whether it is good or not so good. The adult time-outs are very similar. I suggest that time-outs for couples be no less than 2 hours before couples re-enter the argument arena. It’s important during your time-out to not only cool down, but set specific assignments to complete before you meet again. A few that I find helpful are to:
Come back with at least 5 affirmations about your partner.
Ask what value does your partner bring to you and what do you like about them?
Reflect on ways that you could have handled the heated exchange in a more positive way.
I think Aretha Franklin was onto something when she recorded this toe tapper in 1967. Respect for each other is essential in every healthy argument. Not just respect for the other person, but respect for each other’s feelings and points of view. Even though you may not agree with what your partner is saying, let them know that you appreciate them sharing and that you are trying to understand their point of view. Remember, it is difficult sometimes to fully open up and be vulnerable. It’s no fun being criticized for our thoughts or feelings.
Park The Accusatory Language and Name Calling At The Door.
Beginning any sentence with the pronoun “You” will generally make the other party feel as if they are being attacked. Saying something like, “You never pick up after yourself and I am the only one that does the laundry”, will make the person on the receiving end feel very cornered and picked upon. Instead, flip that sentence to address how you are feeling about the situation. It may sound something like this, “It makes me feel sad because we both have full time jobs, yet I feel as if we are not sharing in the household chores as much. Wouldn’t it be great if we could work together on these things, then we would have more time to spend together doing fun things as a couple”? State how you feel and then offer a solution instead of attacking your partner. Happy couples work hard on their relationships and learn not to stoop to school-yard tactics. Name calling doesn’t belong in any relationship. Harsh words are hard to take back and successful couples are mindful of their words and behaviors as to not corrode the love they have for one another.
Conflicts are inevitable in every relationship. But, by facing your relationship roadblocks with respect and love, you are able to achieve relationships that are full of physical and emotional intimacy, friendship, and great communication.