How to Argue With Your Girlfriend (Without Ruining Everything)

« Previous 1 2 View All Next »

Every relationship has what’s known as “The Honeymoon Period”. During this point in time, everything is amazing. The world beams at you with benificence. . Every morning cartoon birds fly in through your window to make you breakfast while fat happy mice serenade the two of you. Life is a grand adventure with you and your partner who is such a Perfect Being that he or she farts rainbows and candyfloss.

She does, however, have a hard time with identification.


She doesn’t have flaws, she has idiosyncrasies. His snoring and propensity to get distracted by whatever shiny object flits within his field of vision isn’t annoying, it’s adorable.  And every single person in this stage of the relationship will inevitably say those same three words:

“We never fight.”

You might as well say “I’ll be right back” or “What else could go wrong?”, for as we all know, the Universe is powered by irony and saying “We never fight” is more or less the karmic equivalent of climbing a mountain top and shouting “GOD HAS SHITTY AIM!” at the top of your lungs.

The gods don't care for smart-asses.

Inevitably the happy new relationship fog fades and reality rears it’s ugly head and those little cute quirks aren’t cute anymore and you have The Fight, and suddenly the happy couple is questioning whether they were even supposed to be together in the first place.

Arguments and fights are an inevitable part of relationships. Fighting isn’t a sign that things are wrong, nor is not fighting an indication that your relationship is perfect. However, if you don’t know how to argue properly, you do risk doing damage to the relationship… or worse, being cut off from sex for who knows how long.

If you’re going to fight, you have to know how to argue correctly. This ain’t ‘Nam, Smokey, there’re rules. To arguing. ((Just to forestall the inevitable comment thread, we’ve all seen that Monty Python sketch thank you very much.))

Rule #1: Keep Your Cool

I know you’re angry. You may have a perfectly legitimate reason to be angry. You’re so incredibly pissed that cartoon clouds of steam are pouring out your ears and that vein in your temple is pounding like a Rick Allen drum solo. You can hear the volume in your voice rising the longer that the argument goes on…

Well, clamp it down, soldier. You need to keep your head straight while you’re arguing and yelling isn’t going to help matters. In fact, it’s just going to make things worse. 

When you’re arguing with your significant other, your anger – however justified it may well be – can only work against you. When you get angry you don’t think straight. You don’t pay nearly as much attention to what you’re saying… or what your partner is saying, for that matter. You’ll interpret things in ways that they never intended, you won’t think clearly and you’ll be far, far more tempted to aim to hurt instead of to resolve the argument.

Think of it this way. Arguments are like low-burning fires. Treat it right and it’ll go out with minimal fuss. Yelling and losing your temper is like tossing a bottle of lighter fluid into the mix. Sometimes the explosion will consume the fuel quicker and end things. Most of the time though, it’s going to start burning out of control and in ways you didn’t account for.

Look, I know this part is difficult, especially if you feel as though you’re correct or you feel as though you’re being treated unfairly. Trust me: take a deep breath, hold it, let it out slowly. Let your heart rate slow a little before you speak. If you absolutely need to, tell your partner that you need to cool off for a moment, exit the scene, take a few minutes to calm the fuck down before you get back in there and continue in a reasonable manner. It’s easier to fight properly when you can keep your wits about you. If you can’t… well, I hope your couch is comfy.

Rule #2: Know What You’re Saying

I’ll be the first person to make fun of the whole “Men Are From Mars/Women Are From Venus” school of thought, but there is one part of it that’s absolutely correct: men tend to fight completely differently from women. Men will argue from a standpoint of logic while women will argue from a viewpoint of emotion. This isn’t to say that one stance or the other is superior to the other; the problem is that these styles of arguing are mutually incompatible.

For example: consider this scene in the movie The Break Up  ((And there’s a movie I never thought I’d find useful… go figure. )) :

The Break-Up – Argument About Doing Dishes
Spike Full Episodes Spike Video Clips Spike on Facebook

To a man, the focus of the fight is that Gary (Vince Vaughn) isn’t helping with the dishes and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) is being unreasonable when she’s telling Gary that she wants him to want to do the dishes.

To a woman, the focus of the fight is that Gary doesn’t appreciate the effort that Brooke has put into the party and the way he’s treating her. Grudgingly helping with the dishes is actually worse than not helping; what she’s asking for is for some consideration and courtesy.

The problem here isn’t the dishes; the dishes aren’t even a symptom, just a trigger. The problem is that neither of them is understanding what the other is saying. Gary doesn’t understand what Brooke is asking for, and Brooke doesn’t seem to be able to explain what the underlying problem is.

This issue crops up more often than you would think. When a man feels that he’s correct, he will often try to explain that what his girlfriend is saying is factually incorrect or that she is mistaken because X, Y or Z. However, to a woman, this frequently comes across as “You don’t have the right to feel the way that you do,” which is quite literally adding insult to injury. This makes her madder, which in turn makes him angrier, which leads to further escalation.

When you’re arguing with your partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, roommate, whatever), you need to take a moment to think of not just what you’re saying, but how it comes across to them. Sometimes the words of the argument are just window dressing for the true underlying issue. If you don’t address the underlying problem, dealing with the symptoms not only gets you nowhere, sometimes they make things worse.

« Previous 1 2 View All Next »

Pages: 1 2

  • James

    Rule 1 – Always important in any relationship and even in daily life. If you can't control your anger, find a way to control it. That applies to /everyone/.

    Rule 2 – I'm much more logical than even the average guy in my opinion, so I totally understand where this is coming from. In the clip, I do blame the guy for not listening, but I also blame the woman for not communicating. Guys can't read women's minds. An argument is not the time for subtlety.

    In this example argument in the clip, the guy accepts the logical point that he needs to do the dishes right now. He doesn't like it and is grumpy about it, but he accepts that point. When she says "you know what, forget it" and he's left clueless, it's because she wasn't really arguing about the issue she wanted to convince him of. While both are to blame (he's being very immature about it, for instance), I would pin the 'greater fault' on her in that one. Since she was the one to create the argument, I blame her for breaking rule #4.

    Rule #3: This is one that I think is also important for everyday life and all forms of argument. For guys and those who use logic while arguing: It's basically an ad hominem attack, which is always bad logic. For girls and those who use emotions while arguing, it's just gonna make them feel horrible and you'll eventually feel horrible you said it, too, and what good does that do?

    If you're about to break rule #3 it could be a sign you're about to break rule #1, so look at the advice given there. Back off, cool down.

    This rule also applies to any form of argument. Like internet forums and troll baiting. No matter how awesome your 'insult' is, it's better to attack their argument than it is to attack the arguer. In fact, you'll be much more convincing if you flatter the arguer, no matter what you really think about them. =P

    Rule #4: One of my mantras about how to have a good relationship (and this is for romance, roommates, bff's, parent/child relationships, ANY kind of relationship) is 'honest, trust, and communication.' I define 'honesty' in this mantra as being open and honest about the things your partner needs to know, about what you think, feel, and do. 'Trust' is basically trusting that your partner is also being honest.

    But even with honesty and trust in spades, you could trust each other out the wazoo, if you have bad communication skills, the relationship is *still* gonna break down or at least be pretty rocky. "But you said!!!" "But I didn't mean it that way!!!" The simple ability to say what you mean and mean what you say (which is easier said than done) goes a *long* way. And also, saying what you mean and meaning what you say are TWO very *different* things, and it's important to be able to have both, again in just your daily life, much less a relationship.

    Any advice from the Doc on simply 'how to communicate' (especially for 'how to listen to the emotional appeal' for men and 'how to explain your emotions using logic' for women), to help with rules 2 and 4, would probably be great to link to here. If that article doesn't exist yet, why not? =P It warrants its own full article, in my opinion.

    Rule #5: This is probably the one I'm weakest at. I don't feel like anything gets resolved this way, and I'm such a big 'fix it fix it fix it' kind of person. I often feel that the 'little stuff not worth fighting over' is really a 'rule #4' in disguise and I try to read between the lines of a 'rule #2' situation….

    …when all along it really *is* something little that's not worth fighting over. As my personal weakest point, I'd love to have some more 'rule #5' advice about ways to recognize when to give in and when not to.

    I wind up having people be frustrated at me, calling me stubborn and close minded and arrogant, and that I'm 'always right' (or sometimes that I 'always have to be right.') I'm actually pretty open minded, if you can convince me I'm wrong, I'll happily change my mind. However, if there's something I believe I'm right strongly, often people won't have the patience, communication skills, or logic to convince me I'm wrong. (If I can see the logical holes in your argument, it's not going to be a very convincing argument.)

    But they argue that they shouldn't have to 'convince' me. I annoy my friends over this as much as my relationship partners. But on the flip side, I don't want to just do what I think is wrong because such behavior is popular opinion and I have no idea *why* it's popular opinion. I'm an 'understanding junkie.' I wanna understand everything. Is that so wrong? >.<

    • saraha

      "I do blame the guy for not listening, but I also blame the woman for not communicating. Guys can’t read women’s minds."

      That's funny, because to me she was crystal clear in what she wanted. She says to him at :43 "it would be nice if you said thank you and helped me do the dishes." It's a two part request. But not only does the guy totally ignore the first part, he adds insult to injury by letting out a huge sigh and complaining some more to let her know she's being unreasonable. He's gone from merely ignoring her hard work to being actively unpleasant to her in a passive aggressive way.

      "As my personal weakest point, I’d love to have some more ‘rule #5′ advice about ways to recognize when to give in and when not to."

      There's no real hard and fast rule. But since you're asking, I would say the ONLY point at which you should not back down is if the argument you are having is so important you would be willing to end your relationship over it. If you're religious and she's not. If she wants to have babies and you don't. If you want her to move with you to another city and she wants to stay. Those are the issues you have to push all the way until you and your partner can reach an accommodation, though hopefully you will work those things out in a conversation, not an argument.

      Everything else, well, you don't have to be a push over, but you do have to be tuned into your partner's clues. If she starts saying, "well, it doesn't matter" or trying to change the subject, then that's the time you let it go. If she starts getting upset or crying, well, there's another hint.

      It sounds to me like you're approaching arguments as if the only way to end is for one party to completely capitulate to the other. You are gonna get into a hell of a lot of fights if you don't have other methods of ending an argument. You can always shrug and say "agree to disagree." You can try to make a compromise. And you need to keep in mind that different people have different perspectives, different priorities. And that means that not every argument can be won by logic because sometimes what's good for you isn't good for your partner and vice versa. The solution? Compromise and communication. Sometimes your partner gives in and lets you have your way. Sometimes you give in and let her have hers. It's such an easy way to make your partner happy.

    • GentlemanJohnny

      Some rule #5 thoughts:

      My family likes to argue. It used to really get on my nerves after a couple of hours because, like everyone, I like to be right. Then one day my mother just put a hand on my shoulder mid-argument (not with her) and said "is this your hill to die for?"

      Those simple words really cover rule #5 entirely, whether its about relationships or politics. Is this argument worth hurting the other person's feeling over? Will you hold less of a grudge if you just walk away than if you make a big thing out of it? Especially in relationships, is it over some harm you didn't mean to cause? Then there's nothing wrong with saying "you're right" or "I'm sorry". If this is your hill to die for, you've already acknowledged that your stand on the issue is more important than the other person's feelings and have accepted the consequences that come with that acceptance.

      To borrow and dumb down the video example, let's say it really is just about helping with the dishes. Now, before making excuses stop, breathe and ask "is this my hill to die for". Are you really so worn out that getting out of this task is worth hurting your girlfriend's feelings? Are you going to spend more effort helping or arguing about why you don't want to help? The scene is really about miscommunication but I think arguing vs saying "thank you for helping. I couldn't have done it without you" is a no brainer choice for most people.

    • Kathryn Blair

      If you don't understand, ask polite and serious questions. Always take your partner's feelings seriously – you don't need to agree with them, but you do need to think she has a right to feel them. A great trick for some of this, is if you are going to say something that dismisses the way a woman you are arguing with feels, rephrase it as you asking questions to understand their point of view better. Even if it's something like "I get the feeling that this isn't about the dishes, can you talk about it in general terms for the moment and I can better put together how it fits with the dishes, I think I'm too focussed on that." or whatever. I-statements help a lot with this because if you say "I don't understand" it's not a judgement on the validity of the other point of view, where as "you don't make any sense" is.

      In the clip she totally did say exactly what she wanted as discussed above – she basically wants him to be an equal partner in the housework, as she is probably an equal partner in the outside-the-house-work. Simple. Totally a respect issue – if you will never help with housework, clearly you don't care that the woman also hates it. Since women get tons of disrespect from men all the time, getting it from our partner is totally ludicrous and unacceptable.

      Also, we can't read your minds either. We don't know why when we say "it's about you thanking me for all I did to make this nice party and showing your appreciation by helping with the dishes now," men don't hear anything other than "help with dishes now" (apparently, or don't hear the rest easily, or the rest doesn't fit in with argumentative styles of men).

      Also, it takes a LOT of self-reflection to break down your emotional responses to their causes and explain them. Men would also be well-served by learning this too – since you guys have emotional responses, you just might not talk about them in the argument. It is, however, possible – my husband is very logical and concrete, and often does not automatically understand my responses, and while I also think emotion is very important, I think it's important because emotions have logical causes one can examine in oneself and come to understand. So I do explain my emotions to my husband logically – IE, you say something this way, which is normally used in society to mean something else or in a context where a clear power dynamic is in play, and that is why it is dismissive and therefore disrespectful of you to treat me that way. This helps focus the argument on the actual problem and helps us understand eachother better, and keeping it productive means there's less head-butting to make the anger continue to escalate.

  • UnderOrange

    On the note of apologies I feel like it is worth noting:

    Don't PRETEND to be sorry, secretly stew about it, and then use it as fodder for the next time you have a disagreement.

    Because "Fine, I'M SORRY" and resentful silence followed by an abnormally cheerful change of subject out of the blue is jarring, unproductive, and ultimately kind of creepy.

  • Ketsuban

    I'm not in the US and thus can't view that video clip! I want to complain!

    • Dr. NerdLove

      You have a couple options:

      First, you could use a proxy service to hide the fact that you're not in the US.

      Second, go to YouTube and search for "The Break Up dishes Vince Vaughn".

      • James

        I was kinda curious why you went with Spike instead of YouTube, actually.

        • Dr. NerdLove

          Honestly, because links to that clip that came out when I was searching for it either had embedding turned off, autoplayed ads before the clip or were from Hulu, which doesn't allow embedding at all.

    • Lucky

      Use a VPN…of course i doubt you will read this as of 111 weeks ago was the last you saw it anyway

  • RedFish

    If you're saying sorry, don't finish up your apology with "…but also it is your fault too because somethingsomething."

    It might well be true, but it makes the apology sound so insincere! And it is also incredibly irritating – it feels like they are saying sorry to get out of the argument, or just to assuage their own guilt, but can't resist blaming the other person one last time before letting it drop.

    If you really must point out why the argument is (also) all their fault, then do it *before* apologising. I don't know if this half-apology is a common thing (I suppose it's just an example of not letting someone else have the last word), but can tell you from experience that it only makes the person hearing it more angry at you…

    • The "I'm sorry, but…" is my biggest pet peeve during arguments, and is guaranteed to extend the argument at least another 20 minutes (or in my case shut down communication completely – it pushes my "fuck you, I'm done" button). Continuing to insist that you're right after the argument is supposed to be over is a dick move. Just let it be over already, jeez.

  • saraha

    Hi Doctor!

    Ordinarily I think you're just about dead right on most things, but I have to take issue with your wording on Rule #2:

    Men will argue from a standpoint of logic while women will argue from a viewpoint of emotion.

    Brooke is tired, she has worked her ass off, and she wants Gary to help her clean up. That seems totally logical to me.

    I would say that men will argue from a viewpoint of tangibles while women will argue from a viewpoint of emotion.

    To Gary, he's agreed to clean up the dishes. Tangible problem solved, argument over. He has completely missed Brooke's request (at :43) that he say thank you. That's not him being more logical than her, that's him literally not hearing the emotional part of what she asking from him at this moment.

    Also – men get a "standpoint" and women get a "viewpoint"?

    • Thank you for this Sarah, I wanted to remark on it myself, instead I'm just adding my thoughts:

      Arguing is emotional. Period. If they weren't, we'd sit down with a sheet of paper and cross out pros and cons, until we find a solution or a compromise. We don't do that, because it's hard to quantify how hurt I feel over you not liking my mother's case, or how concerned you are I will kill my self with that new motorbike.

      We say men use logic, but it's bs.: At best I cloak my defence in logically sounding phrases, so I can claim higher ground and accuse you of being too emotional about the subject.

      p.s.: If I do that, you're granted one free knee-kick-to-the-balls

    • Kathryn Blair

      EXACLTY. Emotion isn't some crazy unpredictable thing. People have emotions for reasons. Logical ones.

  • orangie

    However, if you don’t know how to argue properly, you do risk doing damage to the relationship… or worse, being cut off from sex for who knows how long.

    I don't know if that was supposed to be funny or not, but it comes across as pretty gross. Permanently damaging your relationship is preferable to a period of no sex? Lovely.

    • Rick

      I'm pretty sure that was intended to be humorous.

  • Catiline

    Good article! I think that Rule #4 is especially important. It's so easy to end up in a really brutal argument (one that breaks most of the other rules, too – it runs hot, both parties aim to wound, and neither is willing to back down) when the two people involved can't recognise what they're really fighting about. Or, sometimes, when one person knows what they're really angry about, but doesn't feel like they have the right to be angry over that, so they pick on other things about their partner's behaviour instead. (For example, Partner A is annoyed that Partner B's mother has been staying in their tiny apartment for three weeks, but thinks, "I can't say anything – it's their MOTHER! That would be so mean of me!" Cue Partner A sniping at Partner B over the dishes, what to watch on TV, and the way they comb their hair…)

    But like @saraha above, I don't think it's really the case that men argue from a "logical standpoint" while women argue from an "emotional viewpoint".

    I see the difference in style that you're talking about, Doc, but to my mind, it's more about men dealing in discrete facts, while women deal in patterns. In cases like the argument in the video, she's seeing a pattern – behaviour that shows he doesn't appreciate the work she's done – and she cites two examples of that ("It'd be nice if you said thank you and helped me do the dishes."). He addresses one of the individual problems she's brought up, the more concrete one: he agrees to help with the dishes. To him, that solves the problem, but to her, acting like the problem is solved when you've addressed ONE case, not the larger pattern, is insulting.

    That's not to say that either way of thinking is automatically right: People who think in patterns can be jumping the gun in identifying a pattern at work, just as people who think in individual facts can be blind to patterns of behaviour (especially their own). It's up to both types of people to be able to communicate what they think is happening and what they want. But seeing a pattern isn't any less logical than seeing a single instance.

  • Lisa

    6 years with my partner, and we don't fight. Fighting suggests conflicts, whereas if something is really bugging the other person… we just mention it. And say why it's a problem. And after 5 years of living together, I think we're out of the honeymoon stage.

    • Suzi

      Yeah, we just hit our 9 years (with 5 years living together, several house moves, a phd thesis, long term unemployment, living with my parents for 6 months, so also well out of the honeymoon stage) and we don't fight. We discuss. We occasionally discuss strongly. We apologies before it becomes an argument. We ask before something becomes an issue. Mostly, though, we accept that we're each flawed. I accept that he's always going to talk my ears off, even when we're watching TV (he's been doing much better about it though) and he accepts that I'm not as tidy as he is (though I've been doing better on that). And we accept that we're not perfect. The thing that he does that's driving me crazy, I'm probably doing it too (or something just as bad), and it drives him just as crazy. We also recognise that we're not an isolated system. He's stressed because of X, I'm worn out because of Y, so we share the load, depending on who's the most in need at any time.

      It drives me crazy when people imply that couples always fight, or couples who don't fight either don't exist, are secretly in unhealthy relationships, or are still in the honeymoon phase and will fight eventually.

    • Cat

      For me, "We never fight" was what I thought about a former relationship. We "discussed." I would present my thoughts and feelings in a calm, rational manner. I did not yell. Neither did he. I was always very clear about my position. I asked follow-up questions like, "does that make sense?" and "do you understand what I'm saying, and where I'm coming from?" And the response was always, "Oh, yes. Of course. [insert agreement to help, or change whatever was wrong, general statement of "everything is fine, and yes, of course that makes sense." Followed by actions that did not match up to the words.]

      I thought we never fought. And we didn't. I presented my thoughts and feelings, and he told me what he thought I wanted to hear. And nothing ever got better.

      It got to the point where, when we split up, he said, "but you never told me that was hurting our relationship!" and I responded with, "I've told you a million times that what you were doing was hurting me!" And he said, "I knew it was hurting you, but I didn't think it was hurting our relationship!" And that's when I knew that I was absolutely doing the right thing by walking away.

      Upshot: "We never fight" isn't necessarily a good thing. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either. But, you need to be sure that, however you are communicating, you're *actually* communicating.

      (And I really wish I'd yelled.)

      • Alsee

        "he told me what he thought I wanted to hear"

        Classic psychopath behavior.
        Words are nothing more than a tool to obtain what they want.

        "I knew it was hurting you, but I didn't think it was hurting our relationship!"

        That is an absolutely hysterical illustration of classic psychopath behavior.
        Other people's feelings simply do not factor into their decisions, other than perhaps an obstacle or aid to be manipulated to achieve their desires. From his point of view he made no error in hurting you. From his point of view the only error he made was in failing to foresee that your excessive level of pain would compel you to terminate the relationship. Had he been slightly more insightful he would indeed have acted to diminish your pain – however he merely would have diminished your pain to the maximum level you were willing to tolerate without ending the relationship. From his point of view your choice to endure that level of pain while continuing to satisfy his needs is none of his concern. That is merely your free choice.

        Consider yourself lucky that he did not realize he was pushing your pain past your quitting point, and pity the next woman he finds.

  • One thing you didn't consider, Doc, is that sometimes people have deeper problems that are related to how they communicate in arguments. For example, I have a hard time expressing any negative emotions and letting my real feelings be known; consequently, when I get into a fight, I cry. HARD.

    This has had the result of previous ex-boyfriends responding to me by feeling like shit for making me cry (which is an unconscious response I seek), even if they don't feel like they did anything wrong. Which makes them even more angry when they feel they're in the right, and leads to even more bad feelings.

    Thank the gods that I'm with someone right now who gives me the space to be as angry as I need to be and genuinely listens rather than doing the "automatic male" thing of wanting to fix things right away. Thank my finances as well for allowing me the luxury to continue going to weekly therapy to work on my issues, too.

    And the funniest part is that it was an ex-boyfriend from four years ago who first suggested I needed therapy for this issue.

  • Married Geek

    Re: differences in male/female arguments.

    I always see arguments as discussions – problem solving exercises where it is possible to "fix" something. My wife only sees arguments as "letting off steam" – once she's had a good rant, she'll get bored of the argument and wander off, just as I'm about to engineer a killing logic-blow. Very frustrating for me, but positively means she doesn't sulk or re-hash old arguments. Very occasionally I'll break out Rule #5 and apologise before she's hit the rant-climax, just to share what it feels like for me.

    It took many years for us to learn our arguing patterns and find how to have rows without it feeling like the relationship was over. It's a skill that needs to be practiced and improved upon.

    I'd like to add Rule #6 – "NEVER argue in public".

    It's much harder to take back hurtful mistakes, it makes your audience very uncomfortable, and it basically means you are reality-TV/Jerry Springer trash.

  • Gary's major problem in The Breakup is not that he's occasionally inconsiderate about being asked to do the dishes once in a while. It's that he doesn't appreciate *anything* Brooke does. This scene is so iconic because it sums up the entire relationship in a single minute. Brooke has busted her ass to do something nice, and when Gary is asked to get up off his butt and contribute a little, he acts like a sulky child. It's true that her saying "I want you to want to do the dishes" is the wrong way to phrase her emotional appeal. But I think that many women can understand that request. It's not that we want our SOs to want to clean the dishes. It's that we want them to participate in some particularly onerous aspect of the relationship out of a desire to contribute equally, rather than because their bitchy girlfriend nagged them to take out the garbage. I don't want my husband to want to clean the kitchen after dinner. I just want him to recognize our time as being equally valuable, and spend as much time cleaning up the tasty meal as I have spent making it.

    • Luke

      What’s funny is that I have always been the one giving and most of the women I’ve dated have done nothing but take, take, take from me. If I was Vince Vaughn in this movie, there is NO WAY Jennifer Aniston would EVER feel unappreciated and unloved.

  • I'd add, tangentially related to Rule #4 I guess, an old principle from (I believe) the field of relationship counselling: If you have to argue over something that's been said or done, make it a rule to argue about the words and actions, not the nonverbal stuff.

    When you get into "I heard the tone of voice you said that in" or "You SAY that, but I saw your expression", you're entering a world of inference and speculation where both parties can conjure ammunition out of thin air, not to mention building nightmarish cloud castles imagining what's going on in somebody else's head.

    Applying this rule even if your partner isn't, by refusing to react to hectoring tones, sarcastic comments or dirty looks (or, more importantly, to use them), starts to create a much better atmosphere of openness and straightforward communication, and can untangle some very messy relationship messes. I also find it helps a lot in bridging the gap between male and female perspectives in communication (and I'm with the Doc on #2 – it's a generalisation, it's not universal but it's pretty consistent in my experience).

  • mad bokhi

    Yeah, have to agree: the "men are logical and women are emotional" stereotype has to go die in a fire. Whereas I don't doubt there are some men and women who fit the stereotype (in arguing and other such activities), there are plenty who don't – but the perniciousness of the stereotype tends to automatically put women at a disadvantage – i.e. she's taken as being emotional even when she's being logical. Maddening! Cognitive biases! Are…fucking terrible.

    If there are any studies on this, though, Dr, I'd be interested in taking a gander.


  • Mel

    Paula, the behavior you're describing sounds *really* not okay to me. Basically your boyfriend is gaslighting you–he's doing something wrong and then when you call him on it, making it out as if you're the one who's the problem. A mature guy who really cares about you, if you tell him something bothers you, will talk about it with you and apologize without asked, not ignore and avoid it. The fact that your boyfriend shows so little concern for your feelings, and in fact belittles them by suggesting you're irrational and imagining things, sounds incredibly unhealthy for you. You can find guys who won't do that–I think you should consider really walking out the door.

  • Pingback: Giant Comfort » 5 Behaviors That Ruin Relationships()

  • Pingback: On Labeling Women “Crazy” | Queens and Bees()

  • Impressive ! Especially the comments… All of them!

  • shane

    Im amused, this will sound sexist but oh well. I cant help but to immediately be able to distinquish a males comment from a females comment. This is again because we as men agree and say the article was well written. While the ladder (females) tend to have to disagree around 90% of the time. Im on my second marriage now, in every single argument ive had in my years i have yet to have a female come back with any logic, its always somethibg got misunderstood im angry now and im going to lash out. Meanwhile i can sit back listen to this behaviour and absolutely swear she needs to be committed to an insane asylum. If women could ever learn to say what they mean without trying to guise it in another form 50% of all arguments would end. Simply put if a man can understand a female theres no basis for conflict. You just have to match us with a logical viewpoint on whats being discussed. If as men we’re not conviced or see holes in your theory then we tend to not let go of the argument. Im like the guy below, if you can prove me wrong logically i will admit defeat and wave a white flag. You just better have a strong mental game to ride that train though. Men constantly think nonstop, its our nature, women are the complete opposite. they can know nothing about the subject and just for shits and giggles will argue with a trained professional on the same subject.

    • kim

      Maybe the way you think about women (not being able to express logic or reasoning or being ignorant, etc.) Is why you are on your second marriage. Not all women are that way and it is offensive to assume they are.

      • Avila12321

        Not to mention, being browbeaten about not being logical enough doesn't bring about the best in anyone.

  • Pingback: macys paypal coupon code april 2014()

  • Sensenmensch

    I believe it's been mentioned before, but I would like to reiterate that
    a) emotions arise for logical reasons (even if those may not be readily apparent) and
    b) logic in the everyday sense is based on emotion. (because a logical structure requires assigning values, which are based on emotion.*)

    So the whole "men argue logically, women argue emotionally" shtick seems, uh, illogical to me. Perhaps women are more likely to be in tune with their emotions due to socialization, but that's as far as I'd go.

    I suppose this pertains to rule #2: note that other people's emotional responses don't necessarily mean the same thing yours do.
    (Example: When I am hurt, I tend to get angry and confrontational. My boyfriend, on the other hand, gets quiet and withdrawn. When he *does* get angry, a friendship is about to end.)**

    *I don't have any studies to back this up, but I'll happily elaborate on my reasoning if anyone is interested.
    **This has led to some rather awkward misunderstandings at the beginning of our relationship, with boyfriend being intimidated by my anger as he'd interpret it as much more serious than it actually was, and conversely, me not realizing I had hurt his feelings because I expected him to respond angrily, as I do.

  • mgm531

    I spent 15 years of my life married to a woman who could never give me a straight answer as to why she was mad at me. F* THAT! I'll never let that happen to me again. If you're angry with someone and you can't articulate why — the REAL reason — then that's your issue, not the person you're mad at. People cannot read minds and if you lack the maturity and emotional intelligence to express yourself then problem is with you, not the person with whom you're arguing with. Lastly, I'll add my own Rule: Never — EVER — dredge up a past event or argument as a means to win an argument. My now EX-wife would bring up things that happened 10 years ago and guilt trip me about it. As if I could change the past and make it all better. I've added that to my list of BS that I will no longer tolerate from anyone.

  • Pingback: Ten life skills everyone should have -

  • Nick

    this is bull.. Your tell a person to suck it up. And hold in what your feeling. It seems bad both ways holding angers gonna blow out someday

  • Rule 5 is a tricky one. It could be interpreted in a way that you just apologise to end the argument and just put it behind you. I reckon there are a lot of people, men and women, that do this and end up apologising for something you haven't even done, but it is not a healthy way to be. Looking more at it from an "alpha male" point of view, why would/should you back down and apologise if you know you are correct? It just goes further to cultivating any resentment between you. Furthermore, if you apologise like this and the other party expects it then you have no respect for yourself and it completely devalues the word for a time when it could be used to greater and more important effect. I apologise less and less, and feel like a jerk for it, but it needs to be understood that people in relationships should be equal. I hate arguing and always follow the rule that suggests to walk away and calm down. I hate the way someone you are arguing with can bring up issues that are bothering them and guilt you with it but when you are having the same feelings with them you can't say anything (e.g. I feel the same) because you belittle what they are saying and you look like a jerk. The truest thing in the article is the incompatible arguments from the points of views of emotion and logic.