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 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.
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|
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.