“Have you ever buried your face in the pillow, stuffed cotton wool into your ears, tried breathing and everything else that you could have, but it was no use; nothing seemed to help?”
The heated argument that you just had contaminated your mind like toxic waste. If you have ever felt that you couldn’t take anymore and you would have to do something to stop all this but don’t know what really. Read On.
Why do we argue and What is wrong with it anyway?
Arguments are common in all kinds of relationships and it would be a boring world if we all saw things in exactly the same way. Some degree of conflict can even be healthy, as it means both people are expressing themselves, rather than keeping everything inside and letting emotions fester however destructive arguments can destroy valuable relationships.
If you’re arguing all the time, or simple disagreements end up in a hostile silence or screaming match, it can really start to take a toll on things – or even leave you wandering whether you’re all that compatible in the first place.
How to Stop Arguments
The opposite of arguing isn’t agreement in all things, it’s knowing how to disagree and still maintain mutual respect and liking.
Learning ways to handle disagreements constructively is crucial in any relationship. We always say: conflict is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it that counts.
Here are few tips that will help you take control of your arguments:
Whenever you find yourself in an argument, simply remember to “STOP”
- You ‘STOP’ Arguing
It takes two to argue. Instead of thinking: “Well, they started it!
“Look to yourself: “Okay, they are trying to argue but I am not going to.” If you deny fire oxygen, it won’t burn.
Instead, recognize areas where you can agree and focus on those. People will feel more connected to you and willing to cooperate when you can make at least some agreement statements.
- ‘STOP’ Criticizing
The way a couple argues is a huge predictor of whether they’ll break up. If their tiffs contain criticism (rather than complaint) then the relationship is headed toward meltdown.
Criticism is a big no-no when it comes to keeping friends and lovers. When you criticize, you over-generalize negatively about their whole identity.
If someone forgets to pick up some milk, “You are such a lazy slob!” would be a criticism because it attacks their whole character. “I’m upset you forget the milk!” is a reasonable complaint because it’s specific.
Avoid criticizing and remember to let people know when they make you happy too :)
- ‘STOP’ Stonewalling
This is a total withdrawal and refusal to discuss the issue. It usually leaves the conversation with nowhere to go. Stonewalling is often used by people who don’t like conflict and so try to avoid it.
It’s very common in relationships for one partner to habitually stonewall while the other gets frustrated trying to get answers which further affects the relationship.
- ‘STOP’ Trying to Convince people by Arguing
You might be right, but arguing isn’t a great way to convince people. Why? Because if they’re defensive and angry, they’ll be unable to hear you.
People are like radio transmitters when it comes to communication. They are either set to ‘receive’ or ‘transmit’. When you argue, both of you are stuck on ‘transmit’. This is known as ‘a waste of time’.
Logic only penetrates when someone is calm enough to let it. Strong emotion swamps the thinking part of the brain. Trying to convince someone whilst you or they are angry or feeling insulted won’t work.
So just state your case once and forget it.
- ‘STOP’ Arguing about the Past
When Couple Counselling, I sometimes assign a task to the couple to continue arguing (which is usually pretty easy) but only argue about issues relating to the past seven days. This stops the argument from getting out of control.
If a woman and man are arguing about the fact that she feels he ignored her at last night’s party, then suddenly she brings up the time in 1984 when he was late to her friend’s wedding, then he reminds her of the way she insulted him in front of colleagues back in 1990, and so on, a minor issue will soon be turning into an all-out nuclear war.
Constantly going back to stuff someone ‘did wrong’ weeks, months, or years before is toxic. What’s done is done. My couples found arguments grew shorter because they had less ammunition to fire at one another when they stopped time travelling ;)
So agree to argue only about stuff that happened within the previous week – period.
- ‘STOP’ Taking it to Heart
People generally tend to take things personally, even when they certainly weren’t intended that way. This leads to a breakdown in communication ending up in bitter arguments.
Practice taking time in your mind before you respond to people. Count to 10 and ask yourself, “How can I respond to this calmly, rising above it?”
Remember- If you are too defensive, people eventually stop trying to communicate with you at all, because of the hassle.
2. Give yourself 30 minutes to calm down
Here’s what happens: Two people are having a heated argument. One person goes into another room to ‘cool off’. After ten minutes, they feel calmer. So they go back – but what happens? Even though both parties felt calmer, suddenly they may be back fighting again.
Feeling calmer and being calmer can be two different things. It takes 30 minutes or so to calm down physiologically after a row – so give it more time. And during the cool-off time, refrain from rehearsing in your head all the things you want to say to ‘set them straight’.
Instead, think cooling thoughts and remember all the good times when you were getting along better with this person :)
3. Find out the “Cause” for your arguments
If you find you and your partner argue frequently, or about the same kinds of things a lot, it can be a good idea to think about what’s really causing the conflict.
Are you arguing about what you think you’re arguing about – or are there other things going on the relationship that are frustrating or worrying you?
You may want to consider other influences too:
A. Have there been any recent changes in your lives that may have put extra pressure on either of you? This could be something like starting a new family, moving house, financial problems, work pressures or just reaching a relationship milestone such as reaching a big birthday.
B. Maybe you have been spending less quality time together than before?
C. Has there been an incident that one or both of you is struggling to get over?
Did you used to argue less? And if so, why do you think that is? Seeing past your emotions and trying to look at the wider context of the situation can be a great way of getting to the bottom of what’s going on.
4. Talk It Over
Once you feel relaxed and back in your senses, Talk things over in a constructive manner. Here is How:
- Choose an appropriate time to talk
Start the conversation at a time when you’re both able to focus on it – not immediately before someone has to go to work or with the TV on in the background.
- Try to start the discussion amicably
Don’t go in with all guns firing, or with a sarcastic or critical comment. It can be useful to start by saying something positive, such as: ‘I feel like we were getting on really well a few months ago. I was hoping we could talk about how much we’ve been arguing recently.
- ’Use ‘I’ statements, not ‘you’ statements
This will mean your partner is less likely to feel like they’re being attacked, and you’ll be taking responsibility for your own emotions. For instance, instead of saying ‘you never listen to me’, trying saying: ‘I feel like I’m not being heard when I talk to you’.
- Try to see things from your partner’s perspective
A conversation is unlikely to go anywhere productive unless both participants feel listened to. It can be tempting to just try to get your point across, but if you want to resolve things, it’s really important you take the time to hear what your partner has to say too.
They may have an entirely different perspective – you’ll need to understand if you want to get to the root of what’s going wrong. Try to validate each other’s feeling by saying things like: ‘It makes sense to me that you feel like that’. Making your partner feel heard can be hugely powerful.
5. Keep a lid on it and Apologize
Know when to button it. Being totally ‘honest’ by voicing every thought, always ‘having everything out in the open’, can be disastrous. Couples who have happily been together for decades have learned what not to talk about.
Learn to keep quiet about such things if you know someone gets upset when you criticize their mother or talk about how you passed your driving test at the first attempt and they didn’t. If you know where the minefield is, steer clear.
Here’s something else to keep in mind
Research has shown that people who are able to apologize are more likely to be married and stay married than those who can never say, “Sorry.”
If you can apologize and be humorously self-deprecating (“I’m sorry,” I shouted, “this heat seems to turn me into a black hole!”), so much the better :)
It can take a while to change negative behaviors and learn to disagree in a constructive and calm manner. It might take a little practice before you’re ready to start working together better.
However, do try to stick with it – because once you get used to working through problems in a constructive and calm manner, it can produce some really positive changes in your relationship.
Relationships are always a work in progress. Forgive yourself and your partner. Focus on all the Happy things and move on :)