Another broken promise, yet again: You asked your other half to attend an important event with you — you even asked him far in advance — and then he booked something else for that same evening. You’re offended, hurt, and extremely angry that he doesn’t perceive your needs and make an effort to cater to them. You bring this to his attention and what’s meant to be you sharing your disappointment becomes a full-blown “he said, she said” fight. Some battles aren’t worth risking long-term anguish for (at best, potential) short-term gain. Here are three tips to help you determine which issues are worth addressing and drawing a line over, without winding in a worse off state.
Never act on impulse.
We all tend to say things that we don’t mean in the heat of an argument — things that, after the fact, we are embarrassed and ashamed of saying. Though the simple solution is to think before you speak, that’s easier said than done. Think about this, though: When you’re worked up, your nervous system is on hyper-alert. Our bodies work to protect us, so, when we get triggered, we go into fight or flight mode, increasing our heart rate and adrenaline. We need an outlet to unleash these physiological and heightened feelings — usually, the person closest to us (physically and emotionally). Well, no fight will be solved rationally when one (or both) of you is in this state. Take some time to unwind, whether that involves removing yourself from the situation, going for a walk, or having a glass of water and counting to twenty. Wait, and re-approach the situation once you have calmed down.
Instead of arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, ask yourself: Who cares?
The goal of an argument is to both solve the issue at hand and ensure it doesn’t happen again. But nothing will be solved if the focus of the fight is who is right and who is wrong. Let go of that childish need to point fingers, assign blame and make someone else accountable, whether or not they were in the wrong. When you do that, you distract yourself from the real issue. Every time your partner brings up a past argument or tells you that you are wrong, clearly state that you think it would be more productive to talk about what’s actually going on. And keep yourself calm and in control by asking yourself the important question about right vs. wrong: Who cares? Once you realize that the bigger picture is what’s important, you’ll find it easier to rise about the pettiness.
Avoid putting your partner on the defensive.
When discussing issues that have upset you, explain what triggered you and how you felt, and offer a solution: Tell your partner you’re trying to be proactive and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You can be a bit pushy — but be polite, too. Aggression will only make him withdraw, and will likely also make you angrier. In the example at the top of this post, you could say, “I was offended when I found out that you made other plans the same day I had asked you to join me at something important to me.” This is sharing what the trigger was. “It made me feel like I’m not important to you — which makes me sad, because I love you.” This shows him how you are feeling. “In the future, I’d appreciate if you would make an effort to consider my schedule when making your own.” By doing the above, you are simply just communicating your needs. And circumventing a fight.
Don’t forget: It can be healthy to argue in a relationship, but only if you fight fairly and resolve your issues. If the same issues keep re-emerging, and you’ve tried all of the above? Well, it might be time to reassess your relationship.
Written by Jen Kirsch