Have you ever had an argument with your spouse? No? Good for you, we’re all really impressed.
For the rest of us actual humans, this occurs regularly, and unless you suddenly start agreeing with your spouse about everything and communicate flawlessly, arguments in relationships aren’t going away any time soon.
So what can we do to keep these arguments from ruining our day and possibly even the whole relationship? Plenty. But here’s three for now:
1. Learn how to communicate.
I can probably write an entire book on that alone, and we’ve all heard it a million times, so I’ll keep this part as brief as possible. If you notice a trend (not a a single event, but a string of them) that the person is doing something that bothers you… SPEAK UP! That doesn’t mean to begin yelling when you get pushed too far, it means thinking about what exactly has been bothering you, and then finding the best way to tell the person without triggering their defenses. If you attack the person (as most people do when they get angry) and say “THIS IS THE TENTH TIME YOU’VE DONE THIS!” then guess what’s going to happen? They’re going to yell right back because you took a shot at them. Have you ever had a screaming match with someone and had it end with one person understanding the other’s point? Not likely.
When it comes to arguments, the key to making an actual productive change is to not argue. Sounds kind of silly, right? But there is no reason why two people who love each other need to argue just because they disagree or because one person is upset.
Keep in mind, everything is easier said than done, so arguments are always going to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Just realize they won’t get you too far, so try to minimize their frequency. Usually the only part of the argument that evokes some sort of solution is the part where both people are tired of yelling and the argument turns into a civil conversation. So now you’ve just wasted a ton of energy and frustration just to get where you should have started in the first place.
2. Accept that you’re both human beings with very flawed brains.
If you’re having trouble apologizing for something, it’s probably because you don’t want to “lose” since that would mean you’re not as perfect as you thought you were. If you can accept that you’re nowhere near perfect (and if you think you are nearly perfect, you need to cut that out RIGHT now), then it won’t be such a big deal to give up a few battles.
Remember: being right might be what’s best for your ego, but it won’t help your relationship one bit.
Have you ever had this argument?
“You said this!”
“I never said that!”
“Yes you did! I remember you saying it!”
Here’s a news flash: this is a stupid argument because no one has a perfect memory. If you study cognitive psychology, you will learn all about how terrible our recollection of events are. Eye-witness testimonies don’t even hold up in court anymore (remember My Cousin Vinny?) The best thing you can say is “I might have said that, and if I did say that, I don’t remember it and I didn’t mean to say it.” No one is going to win this argument unless you have some sort of evidence to back it up, and even if you DO have evidence, it still won’t matter because…
3. Relationship arguments don’t take place in court!
Unbelievable, right? You can argue all day and present piles and piles of unquestionable evidence, but at the end of the day, you’re right and your spouse is still pissed at you. Have fun sleeping on that couch with all your evidence.
If your spouse tells you that you don’t go to the movies enough with them, you can show them the ticket stubs of all the movies you’ve been to lately and prove that you’ve actually gone quite often. But who is defining how much “enough” is? What if “enough” is once a month for you, and it’s every weekend for them? At the end of the day, your spouse is unhappy and you need to find a way to remedy the situation.
Most of the time, it isn’t even going to the movies that is the problem, but something deeper and the movies are just the best thing they can come up with to explain the more complex problem. Maybe you aren’t showing enough affection, or working too much. Focus on those things and show them that you care about how they feel instead of trying to prove that their feelings are unjustified.
There are plenty of ways to avoid arguments being blown out of proportion, and we’ve really only scratched the surface here. If you can keep these things in mind, though, you should be in pretty good shape. Oh and men, remember that any question about how your spouse looks is a trap, and the only way out is a straight-faced compliment. That last sentence actually might help more than anything else I wrote.