Everybody is familiar with this situation: at home you’re going at it hammer and tongs. Sometimes also optional cups and plates fly through the room. Screaming, howling, doors slamming, tears flowing…
Does quarrelling have to be like this? Sometimes perhaps. There are good kinds of arguments. If you do it right, it can even enrich your sex life.
You can’t avoid arguments in life. Especially not in your relationship! In a relationship, arguments usually only occur when you have passed the initial moment of infatuation. A dispute requires a certain amount of intimacy. The pink glasses are suddenly foggy and the idealisation of the partner crumbles. Suddenly they are only a human being. A great one indeed, but a human being. The good news: You can learn to argue properly. This makes arguments less destructive.
Typical disputes often arise when one person cares about something that seems banal to the other person. Small things can trigger painful memories of which the partner knows nothing at all. Or about which we are not clear ourselves. Based on our socialisation and the experiences of our lives, we evaluate situations differently. What is a total faux pas for some people may not be so bad for some. It’s important to assess the reactions of others correctly.
The basics: Is there a secret tool for communication?
Many of you ask yourself: How can I learn to argue? How do I solve my relationship crisis with communication? You hear it again and again, but it’s true: Talk to each other! Communicate your needs! For a long time, the so-called “I-message” was regarded as the secret tool par excellence to avoid the dynamics of endless mutual accusations and reproaches. Rightly?
Sending an I-message means that you don’t hold what your partner has done wrong against them forever. Instead, you tell him: “How do I feel with it? An example: instead of saying “You always prefer to go to these stupid parties with your stupid friends”, you can say: “I wish I had more time with you”. (Of course, only if that’s really the case) But be careful: Just saying “I think you’re an idiot”, is not much better than just saying “you’re an idiot”. Starting from yourself is not a grammar rule that you can apply to everything, but rather a way to show: “Hey, there’s something bothering or hurting me right now and it doesn’t have to be your fault at all”.
This way the other person doesn’t feel they’re in the position to get defensive. Because that’s something of a reflex to an accusation – especially when the mood is already heated up anyway. A side effect is that you have to deal with your needs. Maybe you don’t even want to admit that you’re unhappy with your new job because it takes away your time as a couple. Or you don’t think their friends are “stupid” at all, but in reality you are jealous that you haven’t been invited, and so on. There are truths about yourself that are very annoying.
What if I’m right after all?
Yes ok, sometimes you’re right too. If you’re angry, you’re angry, and if your partner has done something wrong, don’t start with: “So I feel weird that you’re always so choleric and never clean up”. Learn when it’s better to be direct. Sometimes I-messages also seem dishonest and superimposed. Especially when your partner has really screwed up something, you should name it. A simple example would be: “I feel a bit weird about always washing your dirty plates and collecting your dirty socks”. Of course, that’s bullshit. You should be honest with yourself and the other person and just say: “I’m not your housewife here, boy”.
It is important not to talk about the bush when arguing. If there is a point of contention, then argue to clarify it and not to avoid it.
Find a compromise! If you’re constantly arguing in a relationship that revolves around unnecessary trifles, it may be because you’re both too unrelenting. Compromise means meeting each other half-way. This shows the other person that it does matter what they want. “Healthy arguing” means that you don’t trivialise the other person’s needs but take them seriously.
An example of a classic compromise: person A is upset that person B never comes to family celebrations, for person B weekends are sacred and they don’t not want to dance at all weddings, in the truest sense of the word! What now? It could be arranged that person B only comes once a month and has the rest of the weekends to rest from the family hustle and bustle. In this way person A is no longer so dissatisfied and can brag to his family about his partner and person B compromises with A. Happy ending so far. In healthy relationships both people can apply their standards, even if the other does not share them.
Listening is not necessarily agreeing
Pay attention to who has how much speaking time. If only one person speaks in an argument and the other doesn’t get a word in, then something is going wrong. In addition: shouting is allowed, but don’t insult the other person. Making accusations while sobbing does not lead to anything in this moment. Don’t say anything you’ll regret later. But it’s just as wrong to remain silent and keep everything to yourself.
Then go away with your greasy hair, you idiot! – Don’t get personal
Don’t insult each other, especially below the belt. Don’t make fun of each other’s weaknesses. There are things that arise from impulsiveness and are very hurtful. You can’t take those words back so quickly. You should therefore never, ever, ever take advantage of the fact that you know each other’s weak points. This is an argument. You are in an exceptional state. But you don’t love this person without a reason, do you? And an argument also passes. Injuries leave unsightly traces. So, you also have a certain responsibility for each other when you are really angry.
Leave the house! Immediately!
This will take us straight to the next point: Distance! If the air is thick and you only want to smash stuff to bits, take a break! Even if you think “but I’m right, he has to understand that”: Just take a break! Maybe your partner is so angry that he is no longer receptive to your “arguments”.
Best to leave the situation. Anger quickly disappears if it is not fed. If you take a break, you should do something that calms you down. Some people go for a jog, others listen to music, others check Facebook or have a kebab. Please try not to write WhatsApp novels to your partner on the road. When you are away, first deal with something else or at least avoid direct communication with them. In very bad cases it also helps to stay somewhere else if you live together. Take your time. Putting the boot in now would be a mistake.
You have calmed down? Cool, now it’s time to think
Self-reflection is important. If you can think clearly again, you might want to think not only about what your partner screwed up again, but also about what you should have done differently yourself. This is a good start to prevent the same argument from repeating itself over and over again. Sometimes you come home, look at yourself and have to laugh. And the thing is done. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. In deeper conflicts you should talk it out. Why does this topic gnaw at you so much? What can you do better next time? How can you avoid this argument? It can be extremely helpful to come to a common view about why things have been so grinding at this point. That doesn’t mean that you need to adopt the other person’s view, but that you work together to find out what is at the core of the conflict and what triggers it.
Can you avoid arguing in a relationship at all?
No. But you can prevent something from breaking every time. And be it your heart. You can argue at eye-level. You can turn dramas into discussions. Conflicts into differences of opinion. Try to find out what you disagree on and then talk about how you can approach each other. By the way, if you were arguing about a wrongly emptied tube of toothpaste, it could be that it’s actually about something completely different. Explore the true reasons. Have the courage to be honest!
Stay loyal to yourself (and if you are in a monogamous relationship, please also to your partner)
Stand by your beliefs. It’s praiseworthy that peace is so important to you, but always take yourself as seriously as others! Swallowing your anger and keeping everything to yourself is extremely frustrating and poisonous for yourself and your relationship in the long run. You only embitter this way.
We cannot do this alone! When it makes sense to get help
These rules are of course incomplete and suitable for relationships that are fundamentally based on mutual respect. If your problem is deeper and the recurring arguments affect your mental and physical constitution, you may need help.
Arguments can also be gruelling, frustrating and emotionally extremely stressful, and sometimes you can no longer find your way out of this dynamic yourself. In this case a couple’s therapy can help to loosen knots. The prerequisite for this is that the love has not died. No tutorial in the world can understand concrete conflict dynamics and solve them individually. If mental problems become stressful, one should in any case seek help. In our counselling offers you will find pages, numbers and addresses that could help you. It’s also important that both want to. You can’t save a relationship alone. Sad, but true.
What if I am trapped in a destructive relationship?
You’re just not sure if you want this relationship at all anymore? You are totally unhappy? You are even afraid of your partner or you do not know how to deal with a break-up?
If fear is the reason for giving in to arguments, this is a serious problem. Your partner should never be so dominant that you are afraid to speak your mind or upset them. A line is also crossed when there is physical or mental violence. If you need help, or don’t know how to evaluate your situation, contact a special counselling centre, which will advise you anonymously and often over the phone.