5 Dos and Don'ts of Resolving an Argument with Your Partner

Relationship Advice

A lot of our readers have asked us whether or not we argue. The answer is “Yes, of course!”.

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We recently made a comic highlighting this but also wanted to share some tips and insights that we’ve learned over the years about how to resolve arguments.

Everyone in a relationship, including happy and healthy relationships, can benefit from learning how to argue well and settling disagreements from time to time. Getting into arguments is a natural part of two people learning more about each other and growing together.

The most important thing to remember when you get into an argument with your partner is that you both should have the same goal of wanting to resolve (rather than “win) the argument and to become better partners at the end of the day for one another. 

Here are 5 dos and don’ts about handling relationship fights that we’ve learned over the years:

DOs:

1. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and give each other the benefit of the doubt. 

When your partner does something that upsets you, it’s easy to just let your emotions and anger get the best of you. Often, at this moment, you’re only thinking about yourself and your feelings. 

What I’ve learned over the years when Chia and I argue is that she’s never coming from a place of trying to intentionally hurt me or make me upset. 

Sometimes she simply just might be seeing or experiencing the same situation through a different lens that I might not have been aware of.

Other times, there might be other things going on in our work or personal lives that are adding stress and causing us to take that out on the other person. Obviously, you shouldn’t take out your stress on your partner, but realizing that that is the cause of your emotions is a good starting point for both parties.

So the first “Do” of resolving an argument is to try to understand why the other person might be reacting this way and what other factors or stressors might be contributing to this?

2. Take a second to think before speaking. But when you speak, communicate openly and honestly.

Sometimes the first thing that comes to mind might not be the best or most eloquent thing you can say. I know for me personally, I’m not someone who can come up with eloquent and rational sentences off the top of my head, especially in the heat of the moment. 

Making a conscious effort to think before you speak helps prevent you from saying anything you might regret later on. 

More importantly, it gives you time to gather your thoughts so you can more effectively communicate them openly and honestly with your partner. 

When you do speak, make sure you are explaining the rationale behind your feelings and what series of events and actions made you upset. The worst thing you can do is hide the truth behind your emotions and let your partner do all the guesswork.

3. Let go of your ego and remember that the ultimate goal is to resolve the argument not to prove that you’re right. 

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It’s very important to take a critical look at your own actions and see how you could have reacted or done things differently, even if you initially feel as though you’re in the “right.” 

In a healthy relationship, it’s not about winning or losing arguments–you’re both on the same team. The goal is to reach a solution that you both can agree on and work towards together regardless of who is “right” or “wrong”.

More empathy and less ego go a long away in fostering happy, long-term relationships.

4. Get to the root of the issue and how you two would handle this situation differently in the future.

Sometimes it might feel like deja vu when the two of you begin to argue about the same thing or similar situations over and over again. 

That’s why it’s important to really get to the root of the issue and what is triggering these arguments. 

If you can agree on what the root cause of the argument is, it becomes easier to find a resolution and to come up with concrete next steps and actions to take. 

Think about when you’re sick and you visit the doctor. Treating and alleviating the symptoms might make you feel better in the short term, but if it’s a deeper or more complicated issue that’s causing you to feel sick, then you won’t get better unless you treat the root cause of it.

5. Give each other space and time to think and cool down.

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We all handle and deal with difficult situations differently. Some of us, myself included, need more time and space to be alone and reflect internally, while others like Chia prefer to talk things out immediately. 

If one partner needs to be alone to think and cool down, it’s important to give them that time and space to do so. That way they can come back ready to re-engage in the conversation and work towards a common ground more productively.

At the same time, Chia and I have both made a conscious effort to meet each other in the middle so instead of needing hours to be alone before I’m ready to talk, I’ve learned how to reflect and gather my thoughts more quickly. 

Similarly, Chia has learned to be more patient and not to expect me to be able to talk things out immediately.

DON'Ts:

1. Start bringing up the past and listing everything that person has ever done wrong

Imagine how you would feel if your partner did this to you. 

It wouldn’t feel so great, right? So why would you do this to your partner? 

When you start bringing up grudges from the past into your current argument, it clouds what you two were arguing about in the first place and only adds fuel to the fire. 

Remember that this is not a contest about who is the most virtuous angel in the relationship. 

If you always keep tallies on each other, instead of a partnership, your relationship turns into a competition to see who can get the upper hand.

2. Refuse to admit any fault

No one is perfect. Even if you think that you absolutely didn’t do anything wrong in this situation, you likely could have reacted in a more constructive way. Being stubborn and unyielding doesn’t bring you closer to your partner or to resolving an argument. 

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This doesn't mean that you need to profusely apologize and irrationally take the blame for everything, but when you admit that both of you could’ve done things differently, it helps to diffuse the situation and opens you both up to compromise, which is the key to resolving arguments like adults.

3. Make the other person feel bad about themselves

When you’re feeling upset, it’s easy to want to also make the other person feel just as bad or worse about themselves, but this type of reaction is more manipulative than it is helpful in resolving arguments. 

Saying things like, "I always do everything for the both of us." may cause your partner to feel guilty or resentful.

When you make your partner feel like a terrible person, often times this pushes them away and may put them on the defensive.

4. Attack the other person’s character

Just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you’re an evil person. Focus on the action itself and not the person’s character.

If you start attacking your partner’s character and labeling them as X, Y, and Z, you risk the other person shutting down and becoming less inclined to work towards a solution together. 

Worst yet, the argument can turn into a battle of attacking each other’s character.

5. Curse and call each other names 

This is not only immature (and something you would expect first graders to do), but very hurtful as well. If you respect your partner, you’ll treat them with respect regardless of what situation you’re in.

It also makes you a better person to not stoop down to the level of name-calling. 

Whenever Chia and I argue, we're always conscious of speaking to each other with respect and try not to raise our voices or shout and yell because none of those tactics help get the point across any faster or more effectively.

At the end of the day, Chia and I are two adults who love each other and disagreeing with each other doesn’t change how we want to act towards one another. 

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Over time, we’ve both learned how to better compromise and meet each other in the middle whenever we disagree.

If you’re going through something similar in your relationship, we hope these tips were helpful! Just know that it’s completely normal to have disagreements with your partner as long as you two continue to grow together and share the same values.

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Let us know in the comments below what tips you have for resolving arguments!  

 

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