15 Tips To Argue Fairly
Some couples engage in arguments regularly whereas others refuse to engage in any behavior that might lead to conflict. Regardless of where your relationship stands on that spectrum of conflict frequency, arguments are a normal and expected part of a relationship.
Arguing with each other is not a sign of an unhealthy relationship on its own. When the arguments become repetitive with no new insight or when they hurt one or both partners regularly, that is when the health of the relationship begins to weaken.
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Following these tips on how to argue fairly will allow for the most productive arguments.
These are ones where both of you leave with a better understanding of each other and of yourselves. You will also leave the conversation with a stronger relationship in the end.
1. Know what you’re arguing about.
Increase your self-awareness so you understand what is upsetting you.
- Is it really that the dishes are still in the sink or is it something else?
- Are you really upset with your partner or are you actually frustrated with your health issue, stressed about work or anxious about the future?
Being clear on this from the very beginning will allow your partner to better understand how he or she can address your needs.
2. Accept that your partner is not a mind reader.
You are two entirely different people who have met in adulthood when most of your personalities are already established. It takes times to get to know each other’s ins and outs and even after you figure it out, humans are dynamic and always changing.
Never assume that your partner can read your mind. As you get to know each other, there will be some instances where you can tell by the look on their face or their posture how they’re feeling. But this not necessarily always the case.
The only way to have 100% clear communication is for you to share explicitly what you want or need from your partner.
3. Avoid absolutes.
In the heat of the moment, it is very easy to say what your partner “never” or “always” does. Such comments are critical and will only make your partner defensive.
Express yourself in truths and in a way that does not criticize your partner. For example, instead of saying, “You never do the laundry” you can say “I wish you did the laundry more.”
4. Do not avoid emotion.
Couples who rarely argue often have one or both partners who are afraid of negative emotions and try to avoid expressing and hearing about them.
This creates a pressure cooker environment because avoiding emotions does not make them actually go away and they tend to come out in other areas, such as extra stress at work or frustration about something around the house.
These couples are also more likely to take out their anger that should be directed toward their partner on their children.
5. Be clear on the goal of the conversation.
The goal of healthy arguments is never to prove your partner that you are right. If that is the goal, the conversation is doomed before you even begin.
In healthy conversations, there can be two goals:
- To understand each other better
- Or to identify a solution to fix the problem.
Many couples believe they are ready for the second goal when they do not feel understood by their partner. At that point, solutions begin to feel invalidating and both partners feel defensive, which leads to a dead-end for the conversation.
Either before or during the conversation, talk about what goal you are trying to achieve.
6. Take a break.
If the conversation is becoming too intense, one or both of you may have an urge to keep fighting. Engaging in this urge will only result in an escalation of the fight.
If you feel your heart racing or your face flushed:
- Take a break for no shorter than 20 minutes, which is the amount of time it takes for our bodies to calm down.
- Take a walk, do some push ups or just sit in another room until you feel calmer and can return to the conversation.
7. Find a mutually agreed upon time.
Many partners when they feel upset, will choose to bring up their concerns at a time that is convenient for them but may not be convenient for their significant other.
- Before jumping into the conversation, check with your partner to see when is a good time to talk.
- Make sure that time is one where neither of you will be distracted, stressed or tired and can give your full attention to each other.
8. Stay on topic.
Sometimes when an argument becomes out of control, countless other issues that were not the initial concern begin to arise.
While they may be legitimate concerns, bringing them up in the middle of the argument will only overwhelm your partner and will result in an escalation of the argument.
Stay focused and if you have additional concerns bring them up at a later date.
9. Do not take cheap shots.
Everyone has vulnerabilities and sensitive areas. As the partner, no one knows them as well as you do. No matter how upset, offended or hurt you feel, never hit below the belt and intentionally push on a sensitive button.
Not only will you escalate the fight but your partner will lose trust in you.
10. Role model for the children.
Sometimes conflict will arise in front of the children. When it does, make it a learning lesson for them by reconciling in front of them too. It will teach them how to negotiate, compromise, discuss and make up.
Disruptive, explosive and unhealthy arguments should never be expressed in front of children as it will scare them and will teach them inappropriate ways of relating to others.
11. Honor the marital boundary.
Aside from seeing a counselor who can help identify repeat patterns and help couples develop healthier relationships, all arguments and details of them should remain between the couple unless mutually agreed upon.
12. There is no place for violence in an argument.
Make sure you both are in agreement from the beginning that emotional, physical or sexual abuse will not be tolerated in the relationship.
13. Know the importance of recovery.
How couples reconnect during the middle and end of an argument is tantamount to the health of the relationship.
One of the best ways to recover is to inject humor into the conversation. This humor should not be at the expense of each other but can be about something the couple finds funny together. It helps de-stress the individuals and de-escalate the heated conversation.
14. Recognize the olive branch.
Allow your partner to end the argument with dignity.
Be aware of when your partner is trying to reach out and smooth things over, such as apologizing, making a joke or holding your hand.
Respect your partner and accept this gesture as a sign of mending the relationship.
15. Maintain control.
This is the most important aspect of fighting fairly. Neither partner has the right to act childish, immature or abusive.
Each partner deserves to express their concerns in a reasonable and constructive manner.
Article Contributor: MySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the South Asian community.
By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant information, they aim to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a dialogue about mental health and healthy living. They believe it is from these dialogues that South Asians will feel more comfortable seeking services and making the necessary changes to live a healthier life.