In the midst of an argument with someone you love, it can be near impossible to look on the bright side. But often, there is a bright side. Or at the very least, an opportunity for learning. In passionate, heated moments, much can be revealed about ourselves, and the nature of our relationships. If we can navigate the messy, argumentative discourse in a constructive way, we can learn from revelations and implement positive changes for future conversations.
To find that silver lining, it’s paramount to stay connected with your partner, even when tensions are high. We’ve compiled a list of seven strategies to help.
- Be present.
Try not to get distracted or let your mind wander (especially when your partner is talking). Focus your attention on the conversation at hand.
- Practice active listening.
Can you understand what your partner is saying? Can you see things from their perspective? Repeat their perspectives back to them and ask for clarification if you need.
- Stay on topic.
If you are having an argument/discussion, make sure you’re both on the same page about what the argument is actually about. Dredging up old fights and resentments is only going to escalate the current situation. You should be aiming for a resolution, not a bigger fight. Plus, if you manage to find a resolution, the issue won’t come back to haunt you.
- Make requests, not complaints.
Rather than complaining that your partner has or hasn’t done something, reframe it as a request. A useful way of turning complaints into requests is by swapping the “you” for “I” statements. “You never help me clean the house” could easily be expressed as “I’ve had a really busy week at work and it’s stressing me that the house is so messy. Would you mind if we spent a few hours cleaning up?”
- Be considerate of timing.
When we are exhausted, frustrated or feel attacked we are more likely to say things that we’ll regret. It can be useful to allocate specific times for difficult conversations. Find a space in the day when you and your partner are both well rested, fed and have emotional capacity for a serious conversation. An allocated time for discussion means that the discourse will be less likely to interfere with other parts of your day.
- Take breaks.
It’s important to call time out if either of you become overwhelmed by a conversation. It’s better to put a pause on it and come back later with a clear head.
- Seek outside help.
If you’ve tried some of these techniques and are still struggling to communicate with your partner in a constructive way, couples counselling can be a productive and healthy direction to take.
Arguments are a part of life. Although they can feel like it, they do not mean the end of your relationship, much less the world. It is very possible to turn a destructive argument into a constructive conversation. If we try to stay mindful, respectful and connected in the heat of the moment, there is so much space to learn and grow.