Many of us don’t like having conflict with our partners. It can be uncomfortable. However, it’s a very normal and even healthy part of a relationship, that is, as long as it’s done fairly. Bottom line: it’s about respect. You can be really angry and express those feelings in a respectful manner. Below are 7 tips that will help you keep the argument at a healthy level:
1) Your partner is not your enemy. Without realizing it, when you begin to argue with your partner, you may be seeing them as a foe rather than a friend.
2) Use “I” statements to say what is bothering you. Own your thoughts and feelings. Use a variation of the following phrase: “I felt_____ when you said/did ______.”
3) Stick with one point at a time. If you tell your partner about all the things that are bothering you, your partner will feel overwhelmed, become defensive, and attack or shut down.
4) Focus on behaviors, not the person. Avoid attacking the person. Focus on specific things he or she says or does that bother you.
5) Avoid exaggerations. Using words like “never” and “always” are extreme and unrealistic. None of us is “always” or “never” doing this or that. Stick to your take on what has specifically happened.
6) Leave the past in the past. If past mistakes are frequently brought into the present, it makes it very difficult for the relationship to heal. It’s like picking a scab over and over until a nasty scar forms.
7) You can always call a truce. When an argument is getting to an atomic level, it’s time to call a truce. Usually people who want space will need to provide some reassurance to their partner so that they can walk away.
If you follow these 7 tips, you’ll find that arguments can be more easily kept at a respectful level. Maybe the outcome of the argument won’t be what you wanted (like an immediate resolution), but if you can keep the conflict at a healthy level, you won’t be experiencing the shame or guilt of handling the argument in an unhealthy way.
Bryan Norman 2011