How to Dissect the Arguments in Your Relationship

Anatomy figureWhat makes a disagreement turn into an argument? Why do couples frequently have the same fight over and over and get progressively estranged from each other? What can we do to avoid these types of exchanges?

The main ingredient in these clashes is something that holds charge for one or both of the partners and their lack of a process to deal with that. Let’s look at this a bit closer and see how you can move from anger to a constructive process.

An important beginning for changing responses is to realize that most fighting comes from focusing only on the specifics of a happening, the immediate occurrences that “caused” the conflict. When we do this, it leads to thinking that the problem lies with the other person. They’re to blame because of their behavior – they did or they didn’t or they will or they won’t, and it makes you sad or angry or hungry or stifled or whatever.

Stop right there. The way forward is to stop looking at what they did and to focus on your response. Arguments are seldom about the ostensible subject; there are feelings fueling them. Take a step back and look at yourself. When we blame, we skip right over this part and move to looking at the other person. If instead, you use these feelings to find out something about yourself, you begin to create a place from which you can communicate differently. Here is a crucial opportunity to transform what is happening.

By making it about you instead of your partner, you remove blame from the arena. This is the equivalent of removing fuel from a fire that has started. When you talk about how it is for you, it is personal, it is an act of openness. Yes, it makes you vulnerable, and you have to feel it is safe to do so, and yes, it may take courage to face your feelings. This approach leads to connection, as opposed to the disconnection coming from blame and anger.

Most arguments come from only focusing on the specifics of a happening, not the feelings #quote Click To TweetIf you see what your feelings are and really look at what they mean to you, you will be able to share that with your partner in a very different way. Speaking about yourself and your feelings gives your partner information. They are immediately drawn to a more intimate type of exchange. They have no need to defend themselves and can apply themselves instead to paying attention to you and your needs.

When a safe environment is created, where the communications are not accusations or attacks, a more loving response is possible. We all want the best for our partners, and when presented with information about how they feel, we can act to incorporate their feelings and needs.

We, Maude and Phil, base our relationship on a number of factors that support this kind of practice. It is built on respect for the individuality of the other person and a total acceptance of who they are. Out of this knowledge, it becomes easier to look at ourselves when something comes up and then feel free to share it with each other without fear of attack or a need to defend.

We always choose this route. One reason is that we know it is there; these are well-trodden paths for us. But the other reason is simply that we don’t enjoy conflict, we are not attracted to it. If you need that adrenaline buzz in your life, go for it, but it’s not something we get any pleasure from, and since we know of other ways to resolve the situation, we choose those instead. We are also always committed to finding a mutual solution, one that works for both of us and that we create together.

You can do this, too. Learn about yourself and what your feelings are, especially those that give rise to a charged exchange. When you have examined those and have learned what is really going on, then find a quiet moment, and lovingly share those feelings with your partner. Make sure it is not a way of talking about them disguised as talking about yourself but is a real sharing about you.

Even if you start this on your own, and your partner has not yet begun to look at themselves, you will find that when you present something without charge and blame, you will feel calmer and less upset, and in turn, it will not feel like an attack for your partner and they will be more responsive to your needs. These kinds of exchanges develop an intimacy and warmth that is far stronger than the anger and distance that comes from putting the cause of your distress onto your partner.


Photo credit: Nhia Moua on Unsplash

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7 comments on “How to Dissect the Arguments in Your Relationship
  1. Lynelle Paulick says:

    Ha, this is SO huge!!

    xoxoxo

  2. Maude says:

    From Lynelle email:
    Hi Maude! 🙂

    Yes, as a matter of fact. I can, based on a personal event from this past Thursday. But I might end up being too wordy…it’s a teeny bit raw still.

    My acting teacher is firmly rooted in a certain “color” of duality. I’d say the trap is understandable, given the call for an actor to relive our stories so audiences can see themselves/ourselves in their intensity of feeling, one way or another. I bought this myself, conflict is where acting lives and thrives. I do this thing…I look at conflict and think how amazing the emotion is that’s a part of any story around it. I really Really liked my acting coach and wanted his approval, but I found myself, over time, Completely unable to be this particular part of myself that he felt was important for my “repertoire” (different, irrelevant subject, just having to do with facial physicality and such…). I was deathfully afraid of his manic abuse-accolades habit that I got to encounter every time I would perform and Not succeed at the element I was tasked with perfecting. So last week I quit, as it seemed I’d begun to go backward with this particular coach. In our final discussion, I witnessed that in my desire to merge with this teacher that I respect(ed?), our encounter would 100% embody this preferred mode of communication: massssive contentious interpersonal Conflict! Again — I bought into it, I didn’t have to go there with him. And I have almost zero idea what happened outside of the elephant standing in the middle of the room: this is our agreement; this is how we will address each other; this is the only way we’ll be able to connect — so go into it and deal with the outcome…and it was pretty vicious, Maude, marked by blame, accusations, paranoia, heavy posturing, and just a Lot of emotion. So in that awww-so-unfortunate way, one I was afraid would be inevitable yet prayed would not happen this way. I saw a Lot. This was My choice, I didn’t have to allow this painful event, but it did allow me to see some dynamics that Do — just exactly as you are saying here — occur and to see whether this, for people’s lives Off the bloody screen, is necessary. NOW: what if we didn’t need to perpetuate this kind of bullshit On-screen anymore?! What if cinema could show human stories, emotions, and relationships in a different (far more mature, evolved) way? Or is this medium destined to play out our worst tendencies whenever possible? How else can emotional depth and the experience of Feeling be accessed than by passing through our collective childhood…I don’t know, these are just thoughts.

    I suspect that’s all I can conjure at this moment.

    Love to you and Mr. Phil,

    lynelle

  3. Jinjee says:

    I’m so glad I read this post. What a great illustration of your old advice to say “I’m cold” rather than “you took all the blanket”.

    What I am so grateful I gleaned from this post is that challenges in our relationships are opportunities to explore and communicate our feelings.

    I absolutely love it!

    • Phil says:

      Thanks, Jinjee! I like your view about challenges. I’m trying to see challenges of all sorts as not just problems, but also as teaching moments. Why is this difficult for me? How can I reframe it?

      I’m not always successful, but I try to reflect on my struggles and ask how I could have reacted better and how other people might have dealt with them.

      • Jinjee says:

        Brilliant. That sounds like a great practice. We are taught to embrace and relish our challenges. I’m not at the point of “yeah, bring them on!” But if I look at all the silver linings I can certainly appreciate how much I’ve grown through the challenges I’ve had.

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