There comes a time in every relationship when you argue about something. If you never do and have been married for more than 10 years, please spill all your secrets now. If you do face the dreaded argument, know that you’re not alone and there are right ways and wrong ways to fight.
Those wrong ways are what could end up filling you with resentment, anger, and issues that are difficult to work out. Nobody wants that.
“What’s important is not what we disagree about, but how we disagree,” she said.
Wong offered 7 tips for fighting the “right” way to help couples avoid the downward spiral during a dramatic argument into relationship damage — or, worse, divorce.
1. Try to let go of defensiveness in exchange for connection. “Often we listen from a place of preparing what we plan to counter with or say next,” said Wong. “Try instead to listen more fully and check in with your partner to make sure you heard them as they intended to be heard. Once you’ve gone back and forth for a bit and allowed room to fully understand your partner … share your feelings. Your partner will be more inclined to reciprocate with the same attempts at understanding once they have felt heard by you.”
2. Decide you aren’t going to argue. Sometimes you start arguing about something and then mid-way through realize you have no idea how this whole thing started. (At least that’s what has happened in my own experience, sadly.) Was it about taking out the garbage? Leaving the lights on for the 178th time? Are those things really worth fighting about? Short answer is no. If your spouse ends up annoyed over something mundane, simply refuse to argue — in a nice way. Don’t raise your voice. Understand his voice. Accept that he is irritated and move on.
3. Don’t meet anger with anger. Much like the above, but this also goes for when the fight is over something more substantial. Hey, we aren’t perfect. But instead of getting mad or yelling even when your spouse is, try to be calm and talk it out. Essentially you need to bring the tone down to a level where you can both discuss it calmly without adding fuel to the fire and turning the whole thing into a shouting match complete with slammed doors. Yikes.
4. Meditate on it. Sometimes you need to take a minute and breathe in and out, slowly, like you are meditating instead of responding to whatever is going on with your husband. Don’t respond on a trigger. Take a moment. Think it out. Breathe. Think some more. Your response and reaction may put forth a calmer vibe, which can in turn diffuse the argument.
5. Separate yourself. There are other times if the argument is escalating that you need to step away from the situation. But don’t storm out. Take a second and tell your partner you need a few minutes, and then go for a walk to clear your head and get your thoughts together.
6. Say you are sorry. And mean it. No “I’m sorry, but …” Saying sorry with meaning allows you both to start to let go of what you are arguing about. It could start the healing. But you have to be genuine about it.
7. Be upfront and don’t save anger for another day. “One of the biggest pitfalls we make in relationships is stonewalling or withholding aspects of ourselves or our relationship from one another,” said Wong. “Nothing damages relationships more.” If you let things go that really need to be addressed, the sad or upset feelings you have on the matter will build, which can in turn cause a bigger argument later on. Talk. Share. Be open. Communicate.