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Arguments: How to manage arguments with a partner

Arguments are a normal part of any relationship- it’s just not possible to agree on everything. But how you deal with arguments will affect whether they have a positive or negative impact on your relationship and wellbeing.

Why do arguments happen?

Arguments often happen when one person feels strongly that they are right and the other person is wrong. You can then both end up defending your position and dismissing what the other person is saying and feeling.

They can also happen when one person feels their needs are being neglected – for example, you spend time on your phone when you’re together and this doesn’t give them the quality time they’re looking for in order to feel close to you.

The Enduring Love? research found that couples argue for all sorts of reasons, including: 

Are arguments a sign of an unhealthy relationship?

Arguments are a natural part of relationships. If you never argue it’s likely that one of you is bottling up things that are bothering them rather than talking about them and making themselves unhappy in the process.

Some people argue lots in a healthy relationship while some will rarely argue. The important thing is that overall there are many more times when we are nice to each other than times when we bicker or argue.

How to manage arguments effectively

Don’t focus on who’s right and who’s wrong

Try to get away from the idea of being right or wrong, or of winning or losing an argument. Instead of thinking that one view is categorically right or wrong, accept that there can be many valid points of view. 

Talk about how YOU feel

Take responsibility for your own emotions and be honest with yourself about why you are so upset. Has something from the past been stirred up by this row? Do you fear loss of control in other aspects of your life? Saying, “you make me so angry…” places the blame for your feelings squarely on to your partner. Yes, their behaviour may have triggered it but the depth of your feelings may have little to do with the current problem.

Tip: Try starting sentences with “It makes me feel [insert emotion] when…”

Take time out

If you can feel yourself getting angry or upset, maybe you feel breathless, out of control or have a sick feeling in your stomach, it’s best to take some time to calm down. In those emotional states it is difficult to come to a conclusion and it’s very easy to say something you might regret. Take deep breaths, go for a walk and agree to come back together to talk it through when you’re both calmer.

Be kind

Arguments don’t ever have to be hurtful. You can explain how you feel and respond to how they feel without ever having to say hurtful things. If the other person says something that hurts you unintentionally, explain how and why it made you feel that way rather than trying to hurt them back.

Be aware that people’s experiences of arguing can be really different – arguing doesn’t affect some people as much as others particularly if you’re someone that isn’t comfortable with confrontation and raised voices can be frightening for some people.

Listen to how they feel

Give your partner space to talk about their feelings without interrupting them. Try put yourself in their position to understand where their coming from. If you’re prepared to listen and consider what the other person is saying, you’re more likely to resolve the argument or come to a compromise.

Let it go

A lot of conflict is caused by one or both partners being unwilling to forgive minor things or holding onto things that have annoyed them. Being a bit more forgiving can make things so much easier. This doesn’t mean letting someone walk all over you – it just means letting go of things that you’ve talked through together that there’s no longer any purpose thinking about.

Tip: If you can’t let it go, maybe they cheated and you both agreed to give the relationship another chance but you can’t forgive them for it, it’s likely that the same argument will keep happening which has a negative effect on your relationship and wellbeing. If you can’t let it go, it might be that you need to let them go.

Be self-aware

Understand where you’re feelings are coming from. Often arguments may seem to be about one thing but there are hidden feelings and past experiences at play. If you’re not sure why something has upset you, make sure you explore where your feelings are coming from and explain this to your partner.

Many relationships have hidden issues and they’re different for all of us. So if you have the same arguments over and over again, why don’t you dig to see what hidden issues might be causing yours? It may not be easy but it means you’ll be more aware of your own emotions and triggers. This is called ‘emotional intelligence’ and having more of it can help you have better, stronger and more satisfying relationships.

Communicate openly

Open and honest communication in relationships is so important and can help you head off an argument before they even begin. Don’t keep things hidden and expect your partner to know what’s wrong. Neither of you are mind readers! 

Things you should never put up with in arguments

Arguments can be good starting points to work out how you can communicate more effectively with one another – maybe you could talk about your feelings before they become too big or take time out in arguments to avoid saying things you might regret later.

However, there are some things that you should never accept in arguments as these are a sign of abuse. For example, if your partner…

  • raises a hand when angry, like they are about to hit you – or actually hits you
  • forces you to go further sexually than you want to
  • gets angry when you don’t drop everything for them or not respecting your boundaries – for example, getting angry at you for spending the weekend with your friends or for what you choose to wear
  • makes you question what happened, how you feel or how you interpreted a situation. This is known as gaslighting and it is a sign of psychological abuse whether they do it intentionally or not 
  • ignore you, shut down and won’t communicate when you try to bring up a topic. This is known as stonewalling and can be a form of emotional abuse

If you’ve experienced any one of these it’s really important you get help. It is never your fault – you are never to blame for someone being abusive towards you.

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