When speaking to a dear woman friend, we ended up discussing the probability of arguing or disagreeing in a love relationship. Some describe these moments as relationship fighting. At its worst these fights can lead to domestic violence, including physical assault.
Most often, these couple disagreements or arguments are merely hard conversations. However, these verbal disagreements can escalate if we believe in The Love Fantasy.
The Love Fantasy
The love fantasy is believing disagreements will never happen. Yet, it is better to disagree than give up on who you are.
In marital counselling it is often a red flag when a couple reports, “We never disagree or argue.” One of them is probably giving up on her or his desires, opinions or even values. They don’t speak up for the sake of the relationship or as the cliche goes to keep the peace. To give up the right to be heard, understood, and known by your sweetheart is too high a cost.
Don’t Clam Up
As children some of us were not given permission, let alone encouraged, to disagree with our parents. This habit of clamming up is then taken into our primary relationship until and unless our emotions reach overflow. Then the clamming up erupts into an emotional outburst!
12 Tips to Disagree or Bring Up a Problem
- If appropriate, start the conversation by owning your position with something like, “I have a request. I have a problem and would like your help.” or “I want to discuss my . . . (desire, opinion, goal).”
- Make an appointment to have your discussion. “When would be a good time to have a discussion?”
- Sit on a coach or across from one another. Sitting helps ground both of your bodies and emotions.
- Hold hands while sitting on a coach or across a kitchen table. Your hands will work as a tension and monitoring signal. You will notice one another’s hands tighten.
- Be gently honest. Be willing to describe your problem. Begin sentences using “I” and avoid the word “you” to minimize the possibility of your partner reacting defensively. State, “I feel” or “I think” or “I want” or “I don’t want” etc.
- Notice if you are making up victim stories. If so, start your sentences with, “The story I tell myself is . . . ” For example, if you feel distant from you partner and you are telling yourself, she or he is avoiding you, say it. You could say, “The story I tell myself is that you are avoiding me.” This minimizes the chance of assumptions taking your conversation sideways.
- Avoid name-calling of any sort. When we say demeaning words and phrases we cross the line to emotional and verbal abuse. Examples include, “You are (fill in the blank with demeaning names such arrogant, lazy, an idiot, or even more demeaning words such as b#$@ or f#@$).“
- Do not expect to quickly come to agreement. Begin with an intention to share your position, problem or request. Also begin with a commitment to make space for your partner to react or respond to what you say.
- Periodically ask, “What did you hear me say?”
- Then seek to understand your partner’s reaction or response. Listen to her or his perspective. Now and then check in that you understood his or her message. Listen!
- End with either a resolution or an agreement of another conversation to move forward with solutions.
- Express appreciation for non-defensive listening, which is a true sign of committed care . . . and of course a sweet kiss.
Oh! By the way, there is something called relationship repair. If the conversation about disagreements escalates to a fight, you can tale a breath or maybe request a 20 minute break. That is how long it takes for an elevated heart rate to calm. Then apology for any small or large piece of you part that included dysfunctional communication.
Please share your experiences of relationship fighting, arguing or disagreeing. Especially share with us, what strategies have you found useful to increase the resilience in your relationship?
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.