No one likes fighting with their significant other, but in any relationship, you’re bound to have some disagreements, whether big or small. What’s important is how you handle conflict. In order to walk away from an argument on good terms, and with a clear understanding of your partner’s point of view, there are a few things you must keep in mind.
Greta Tufvesson and Nikki Lewis, founders of matchmaking service The Bevy, break down a list of actions you shouldn’t take when you fight with your partner. One of the primary tips they offer is to listen and to avoid interrupting. “When you interrupt it may seem like you don’t care about what they have to say,” they explain. Another important piece of advice is to maintain your composure. “Be cool and, more important, be calm,” say the experts. “Calm is contagious.”
As for healthy ways to argue with your spouse or partner, Tufvesson and Lewis’ advice centers around communication. The goal shouldn’t be to “win” an argument, but to walk away with a thorough understanding of your partner’s perspective, having clearly communicated yours as well. And along with stating your concerns in a manner your love can understand, you want to be as respectful as possible. “Don’t roll your eyes and don’t patronize,” they recommend.
Read on for 8 things you should and shouldn’t do when you fight with your partner.
“It’s so important to listen,” says Tufvesson and Lewis. During an argument, you want to listen to understand, rather than be silent to simply wait for your turn to speak. Comprehensive listening will help you better understand your partner, and can lead to a more complete resolution.
2. Don’t interrupt.
There are few things more demoralizing than when someone interrupts you in the middle of explaining your thoughts or feelings, especially in a relationship. It shows your partner isn’t paying attention, and values their opinion over yours. “When you interrupt, it may seem like you don’t care about what they have to say,” explains Tufvesson and Lewis. “Once they have finished, that is the time to calmly own your mistake or make your case.”
3. Stay calm.
When emotions are running high, it’s hard to avoid saying or doing things that may hurt your partner’s feelings in the moment. As the tension escalates, you open the doors for low blows and cutting remarks made in anger. How to avoid straying into combative territory? “Be cool and, more important, be calm,” Tufvesson and Lewis say. “Calm is contagious.”
4. Pay attention to your body language.
Nonverbal communication is just as important and impactful as verbal. So you don’t want to say all the right things yet send a conflicting message with your body language. In essence, refrain from any folded arms, withering stares, and closed fists. “Don’t roll your eyes, but do make eye contact,” says Tufvesson and Lewis.
5. Be respectful.
Your partner is ostensibly someone you care for and value. They should be treated that way, even in the midst of an argument. Though you may have the urge to be condescending and insulting, refrain from doing that at all costs, says Tufvesson and Lewis. “Do not patronize.” When people feel you are belittling them, they’re more likely to go on the defensive, and abandon the chance for reconciliation all together.
6. Don’t tell your friends about every single argument.
In some cases, like if you’re facing emotional or physical abuse, it’s important to share your experience with a trusted friend or family member. But if your situation isn’t threatening, you may want to think twice before sharing every issue with your loved ones. While you and your partner may move past an argument, the people in your circle are more likely to hold on to resentment long after reconciliation has occurred. This could make for some tension and animosity when everyone crosses paths again, even if the conflict wasn’t major to begin with. Use your discretion to determine which arguments you need to divulge to your friends or family.
7. Don’t air issues on social media.
In the same vein, all of social media doesn’t need to know your business. While it may be tempting to snub or even outright condemn your partner online, you gain nothing from informing your followers about your personal relationship issues.
Besides embarrassing your partner, and possibly yourself, you also open yourself up to unwanted advice, criticism, and speculation. If you truly want useful advice, seek out counsel through a therapist, relationship expert, or pastor. They can offer far more support and guidance than the people scrolling through their social media feed.
8. Use healthy phrases.
There are healthy ways to argue with your spouse or partner. The key is to make them feel understood and seen in a way that is totally genuine. Think about it: Even when you’re in the wrong during an argument, you still want to feel valued and acknowledged. Tufvesson and Lewis recommend that you “start with one of the following phrases: ‘I respect you and your opinion,’ or ‘I can understand that it must be really hard to feel that way.’”
What’s more, sometimes there’s not always a simple solution to a disagreement. Even after listening, staying calm, avoiding interrupting, and respecting them and their privacy, you could still find yourselves at odds with your partner. At that point, Tufvesson and Lewis suggest using the term “Let’s agree to disagree” as a way to move forward peacefully even if you continue to have differing opinions.