How to Settle Arguments and Disagreements with Your Partner - dummies

How to Settle Arguments and Disagreements with Your Partner

By Paula Hall

Every couple experiences disagreements. When handled with care, respect and understanding, couples can resolve their differences in a positive way and learn more about each other. When not resolved properly, couples can quickly become isolated and driven apart.

Identifying your argument style

Working out how you and your partner respond to conflict can help you to understand how arguments develop.

  • Subtle subversive: tends to avoid confrontation and often hints at problems through silence, nagging or whining. The problem is often the long build-up that develops before an argument breaks out.

  • High-level attacker: often vocal and dominating during an argument. They may have come from environments where arguments were loud and frequent, and so see this style as normal.

  • Pre-emptive striker: dislikes blow-ups and try to avoid a full-scale battle by any means. Can be a sensitive and defensive personality.

  • Shock absorber: afraid of arguments, s/he refuses to engage in a row in any way at all. Beneath the surface can lie unvoiced resentment and bitterness.

  • Peace-seeking missive: dislikes conflict and seeks to end a row as soon as possible. This can detract from focusing on resolving the cause of the disagreement.

When different styles collide, it can be difficult for a couple to interact effectively during a disagreement. The key thing to focus on is approaching the issue as the enemy, and seeing yourselves as comrades in arms.

Here are some early warning signs that a conflict is brewing:

  • You avoid eye contact, physical affection and sex.

  • You contract or question your partner on everything.

  • You respond to attempts at conversation with short, curt replies.

  • Your thoughts are focused on your partner’s negative qualities.

How to control your anger

If you display some of these signs you should first acknowledge your feelings and pinpoint the emotions you’re feeling. Then try to identify the trigger and consider whether external circumstances are making you more sensitive.

Decide whether the issue really matters before raising it with your partner. If it’s not important, get back on track by reassuring yourself and using positive self-talk to calm your anger. Aim to reconnect with your partner using either physical touch or words.

Master the art of negotiation to improve communication

Conflict is often fuelled by miscommunication. When couples start to argue, there’s often a focus on winning the fight, rather than resolving the issue. You need to listen to each other’s opinions and perspective without judgement. When asking questions, keep your tone and language relaxed and open. When you’ve identified the problem, it becomes easier to agree on a goal. There are a number of ways in which you can resolve your difficulties.

  • Compromise: Both parties agree to back down a bit. But this can be a limited way of solving a problem, with both partners making sacrifices but possibly without achieving an ultimate solution.

  • Collaboration: Couples focus on how to reach their goal by working together to find a new way of attaining a solution which works for both sides.

  • Exchange deal: Oone partner agrees to the other’s wishes, but in turn makes a request which s/he feels is of equal value.

It’s a good idea to set a review date when you can sit down and discuss whether the solution is working. This gives you an opportunity for you both to reassess how the changes have affected the problem, and whether further action needs to be taken.