I’ve been seeing the same title pop up over and over from a variety of sources. Magazines, online articles, Pinterest, and Facebook have all shared posts on the same topic: “How to Have Healthy Arguments”. Its more than just a trending topic, it's a guidebook. A lot of the advice given is logical and sounds great. They say things such as “listen to what your partner has to say”, “use I statements”, “pick your battles”, and “no yelling”. I believe these tips are on the right track and they're certainly true. If there is absolutely going to be an argument, then yes these guidelines will help keep things civilized. The problem is that they still leave a lot of room for disrespect. I used to think respect meant a gentle tone of voice, being helpful, and expressing my needs. I’ve come to learn that those ideas were really limiting me and the progress of my relationship. Here is my take on how to have healthy arguments- don’t! With these tips, arguing will not be necessary at all.
Refill Your Cup
Part of being in a long term relationship is accepting the flaws that come with our partner and that surface from within ourselves. Because we are all only human, eventually there are bound to be misunderstandings, conflicting boundaries, moments of anger, and hurt feelings. During these moments, the number one most important thing we can do is to take a break and refill our cup. Check out this article for an in depth look at how to nurture yourself in times of pain. If we try to take these moments of conflict head on with an empty cup, we will be much more likely to take things the wrong way or say things we may later regret. Nurturing yourself before trying to resolve any issue is absolutely vital so that you will be able to face your partner as your best self with a clear mind and a pure heart.
When our partner has said or done something against us, it is human nature to either hide our feelings or get defensive. Defensiveness is usually what lands us in a fight while hiding will only mount to our resentment and pain. Neither sound like very good options. The good news is, there is a much better alternative. The best option is to be honest and true to ourselves first about what lies below the anger- because underneath anger is always pain. This means that the purest, most honest way to honor our emotions is to express the pain instead of the anger that masks it. It is often much easier to express anger than it is to express pain. Pain is much more vulnerable. It shows our soft spots and takes a lot of courage to admit, which is why when we willingly show those parts of us to those we love, they love us more for it. Vulnerability nurtures intimacy.
It is important to not do this in an accusatory way or that can cause our partner to get defensive or to mount their own resentment. Instead, Laura Doyle invites us to simply say “ouch”. This one little word can say so much. It communicates our pain to our partner without accusations, defensiveness, or hiding our true emotions. It is a clean and pure way to be dignified and honest without needing to participate in an argument.
What Respect Actually Is
I used to think that respect meant using a gentle tone of voice, sweet words, and honest communication during an argument. I would say things like, “I feel really hurt that you never take me out on dates”. I was checking off all the boxes of what I understood to be respect- I was gentle, sweet, and honest about my needs. The problem was that I was also being critical and controlling, which is disrespectful regardless of the tone of voice or choice of words. Respect means I allow my partner to be themselves without trying to change, control, or criticize them.
Express Your Desires
So how do you get your needs met in a relationship if you can’t tell someone what to do or how they’re messing up? We all have needs and it is absolutely important that they be met! That is why honoring our desires is such a valuable skill. Things would’ve been a lot different had I simply expressed my desire for a date night instead of complaining to my husband that he never took me out. Behind every complaint is a desire.
Of course, this doesn’t solve every problem all at once, but it does empower us to honor our true emotions, needs, and desires one day at a time. As we do this, we can start to shift the patterns of the relationship until it feels balanced and truly happy.
What do you think about arguments in a relationship? Post below in the comments.
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