Arguments, believe it or not, are a healthy and normal part of relationships. In many cases, they help you to grow, mature and strengthen a relationship. Of course, these conversations can get out of hand. Here are nine basic ground rules for couples on how to argue the right way.
Don’t use defensive body language
If you want your argument to be as healthy a debate as it can be, it not only involves using the right words but also using your body language to convey a sense of openness. “In other words, don’t cross your arms, point your finger or roll your eyes,” says resident dating expert for WhatsYourPrice Heather Ebert. Many studies on communication point to the fact that nonverbal communication is more effective than verbal communication. “Your partner is going to use your nonverbal behavior to determine your intentions and formulate their approach to the argument.”
Don’t blame, judge or criticize
Arguing puts us in instant reactive mode, making it impossible to hear one another. “This is how things escalate and becomes an emotional tennis match of slinging insults. Nothing gets accomplished and things are said that compromise trust,” says Lisa Concepcion, a relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching. “When you blame, judge or criticize during an argument, it divides you as a couple. You’re not looking at a solution. You’re looking to be right and make the other person wrong.”
Stick to the subject at hand
“Don’t go off topic and introduce something new or from a previous conversation,” says Gail Crowder, a certified marriage and life coach. For example, if you’re arguing about the rent, it’s not a good time to also bring up his or her drinking habit. Save that discussion for another time.
Say what you mean
You want to come across strong, decisive and poignant in an argument, right? “Often, when we try to use the words that will have the most impact, we miss the mark and create an even larger firestorm than before,” explains Ebert. “Don’t just say things just because they sound good. You shouldn’t have to hurt someone in order to get your point across. And dig deep to find the best way to articulate your thoughts and feelings.”
Set a mental time limit for arguing
“Ask yourself, ‘How long can I engage in this argument before I lose my temper and say something I don’t mean?’” suggests Crowder. You also don’t want these arguments going on all night long and then continuing when you wake up. If you set a limit of fifteen minutes, you can always tell your partner, “Let’s continue this discussion later or tomorrow.”
Frame the conversation positively
“When you are communicating with your partner, if you have a negative spin, your partner will respond with their guard up and will be less likely to hear you out,” says relationship expert and CEO of Platinum Poire, Rori Sassoon.
Don’t hit below the belt
Don’t “say things that you know you are going to regret later. Wounds of the words from a loved one are worse than wounds of war,” says Sassoon. “In addition, don’t yell and be too tough on them. You want them to be able to speak openly and feel safe.”
Don’t threaten with separation or divorce
If you are throwing, “It makes me want to break up with you,” or “Why don’t we just divorce then?” every time you argue, stop! “Do that too often and it may backfire. You may end up in court and not want to break up,” says Crowder. Even if you aren’t serious, it’s still hurtful for your partner to hear.
Don’t play to win
When you argue with your partner, the end goal should be solving a problem. “It’s not a game of being right. You would rather be happy that your partner understands you and respects you than just being ‘right,’” says Sassoon.