Updated: May 7, 2020
Arguments can be healthy, but the way you are currently arguing may not be. The team at Lunita discusses how to argue productively so your relationship can grow to its full potential.
If you haven't already checked out the episode, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give Episode 8: How to Argue with Someone You Love a listen. Remember to subscribe to the Podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
On this episode, Nina and Justin discuss how the quarantine has put some strain on their relationship. Arguing is a normal part of any relationship and should not be avoided, but during these stressful and lonely times, it seems many of us are arguing more than usual with our significant others. We are here to help you find perspective and argue in as healthy and productive a way as possible.
*NOTE: Please take a look back at Episode One: Foundations of a Happy Relationship; if you are noticing any of our red flags, that is something different. Also, don't forget to visit our resources at the bottom of this post to find additional help.
Let's Get Real
As time goes on, we are still left with many questions. No one knows what tomorrow or next week will bring. That within itself is stressful. Be honest about the fact that even if your relationship was not in trouble before, this whole global pandemic may have tested the boundaries of your stress levels. You and your partner are now living together... all. the. time.
This may be a huge change for some of you. That is ok. It's also important to remember to give context and credit to yourselves and one another. Things are tough, but if you are committed enough to make it work, that is a start. The fact that you have listened to this episode, or are reading this blog post, is a very good sign. Both say one thing -- you are open to changes. So let's get to it!
They are a way of life. It is normal to disagree. You wouldn't expect to spend three weeks alone with your best friend in a home, with no other personal contact, and not get into a argument, would you? So, why are you expecting the same from your partner?
It is not only normal to argue, it is healthy. Couples who don't have disagreements are missing out on opportunities to grow both as individuals and as couples.
Holding in your emotions, bottling up your feelings, or refusing to acknowledge them is not a healthy thing to do. Not during a pandemic. Not ever. It is important that you are honest with yourself first about what you are feeling, what you are experiencing, and how it may be playing a role (conscious or not) in how you react, respond, and operate in your everyday life. If you never argue, there is a good chance resentment may be building up, and no one wants that.
During the Argument
While there are numerous things to fight about (don't get us started), the reality is that arguments happen, but they can happen in a more productive manner; what we mean is that you don't have to leave the fighting thinking, "I'm so glad that is over," but instead, maybe you learn something about yourself, your partner, or your relationship along the way.
The goal here is NOT to prevent fights from ever occurring. The goal here is to learn how to argue a little more productively. Here are some of the things that have worked for us:
I know, I know, you hear this one all the time. But to listen with your whole heart is to not only keep your ears wide open but to hear in between the sentences. Sometimes, your partner is trying to tell you something important, but you are coming from a place of trauma, rejection, or fear, and this may push you to hear only what you want to hear. Not the other person's truth.
It's also important (and totally recommended) to ask questions if you are having a difficult time understanding where your significant other is coming from. Questions are a great way to make sure everyone stays on the same page, and it shows the other person that you actually WANT to hear what they are saying.
2. Speak without Interruptions
Allow one person to get everything out before you decide to interject. Giving another person space to claim their feelings and state their thoughts is the respectful thing to do. When we can speak freely, without the fear of being judged, we can be authentic and honest. Let the other person get everything off their chest, listen, then switch.
3. Admit Your Feelings
Sometimes what's behind an argument is fear, sadness, or disappointment. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling. If you cant be honest with yourself, you surely can't be honest with anyone else.
Once you can own your feelings, claim them; state them out loud to your partner. "I feel unloved, misunderstood, sad," whatever it is. claiming it not only helps free you from it, but it is a non-accusatory way to let the other person know how their words or actions have affected you.
Ex: "We are not fighting because I cooked AND did the dishes, we are fighting because I feel ignored, sad, and taken for granted. I deserve to be loved better, and I want you to understand where I am coming from."
4. Acknowledge Their Feelings
Statements like, "I see where you are coming from," or, "That makes sense," are about more than just words. It's about letting the other person know you see them, you are taking their feelings into consideration and that you are mature enough to admit to your faults.
Also, remember that it is not your place to tell your partner how they "should be" feeling. Everyone is allowed to feel how they do, and we should acknowledge and respect every one of those feelings.
5. Adjust your Mindset
Arguing should not be about being right, proving a point, or payback. It can be really difficult to not want to punish someone when you are feeling hurt or sad. It easy to go to a place in your mind that says, "you hurt me, now you deserve to be punished." This will not bring you any closer to a resolution, and it will put an even more tenuous strain on the relationship.
Change your mindset from, "I am right. You are wrong." to "We're both right, and we're both wrong, so how do we learn together."
6. Don't Accuse
Put your finger down, and stop pointing it at others. You are not a judge, this is not a courtroom. Admit that, in real life, we all make mistakes, and we all deserve to be forgiven repeatedly.
It's easy to place all the blame on someone, especially when you are angry, but let's be honest, relationships are a two-way street. Accusing can be an easy way to deflect, but it's not healthy, and you are better than that. Come on now bb.
7. Practice Empathy
Think about how YOUR actions make the other person feel. Empathy is the ability to see things from another person's point of view, to put yourself in their shoes. Sympathy is about feeling bad for someone. No one wants sympathy; that won't get us anywhere. If you are having a hard time finding empathy, talk to your partner when you are both more cooled down about it.
Think of it this way: yes, you may be upset or frustrated with your partner, but remember that you're no walk in the park on your bad days either.
8. No Low Blows
We all say things we don't mean, but if something really hurtful or mean does slip out, own up to it immediately. Like the second that it happens. It might not be enough to reduce the damage that has been done but waiting till later to apologize for saying things that are uncalled for won't help you out.
**Also, if there are things you and your partner have discussed previously, such as don't yell, or watch your tone, no matter how upset you feel, try to remember to honor that person's wishes.
The Cool-down / "Repair"
Once things have started to cool down a bit and the heated portion of the argument itself is over, it's important to work on how you can repair your relationship both in that actual moment and for the future.
The Repair is where a lot of the growth and progress can be made. It's when we've analyzed our argument, organized our thoughts, and remembered that we're in this together, not against one another.
Here are some suggestions that have worked for us on how to repair the situation after a heated argument.
This is a time to take a few moments (as long as you need) alone to process and reflect on what was said and how things went down. We suggest doing active forms of reflection such as writing, drawing, or even voice recording your feelings. Try to be present in your body, acknowledge what you just went through, and be honest about how you are feeling.
2. Take Responsibility
It takes two to argue, so its important to remember to take the time to own up to your part. It is time to get real with yourself. Being able to own up to your faults is not about admitting defeat, it is about being responsible enough to practice self-awareness and apologize when warranted.
3. Agree to Move Forward
You may be ready to work on the repair before your partner is. That is ok. They may need time. Please give them the time they need and deserve to reflect in their own way. Make sure both of you are willing to move forward, and do not push someone else to continue until both parties are ready.
4. Acknowledge the Hurt
It is important to acknowledge the pain that you may have caused your partner during your argument or leading up to it. Without acknowledgment of your actions, their feelings, and the potential hurt you have caused, there is no way to move forward. Please take this step seriously, as it is an important piece to beginning the recovery of your relationship.
Additional Pro Tips
1. Step Back
If you can, take a quick walk around the block, a shower, a run, or just go sit in another room alone. Sometimes someone needs to step away before things get out of line.
Having a few moments to yourself to collect your thoughts, and take some deep breaths is really key. There is nothing wrong with saying, "I need a few minutes to myself." Often, it can prevent you from saying things that you will potentially regret later.
2. Express What You Need in That Moment
Explain to your partner how you are feeling in the moment before an argument becomes too heated (or even more heated).
Saying, "I know this needs to be addressed, but at this moment, I am feeling too angry to talk, can we do it later?" will make a huge difference, and it will show the other person that you are taking this seriously, and you do want to work on this, just not at this very second.
The most important piece here is for you to be in touch with yourself and know what you need, and feel confident expressing it without any guilt or shame. We all have needs. The more we express what they are to our partners, the more likely they are of getting met.
3. Communicate Regularly
We know you have heard this one before, but seriously, its important. Your partner is not a mind reader, there is no way for them to know what is going on inside your head unless you communicate.
Even if you are upset about something trivial, speak up. Do not hold your feelings in. You will feel better for being honest with yourself and communicating your needs and desires clearly to your partner.
4. Try to Find What Triggered The Argument in the First Place
Sometimes an argument about the dishes isn't really about the dishes. Do you know what we mean? It's important to get to the underlying issue.
Often, an argument can be traced back to someone's emotions being triggered by another person's actions or actions that have happened in the past. Knowing what is at the root of an argument will help you both understand one another on a deeper level and come to solutions more quickly.
The Wrap Up
Arguing is an uncomfortable, and at times painful, part of being in a relationship. It is also crucial to understand why you and your partner continue to argue, especially if it is about the same things.
The realistic thing to do here is not to always agree or never argue, but rather to agree to argue with more intention and awareness. Be open and honest about your feelings with yourself and your partner.
Make sure to keep their experiences and feelings in mind at all times. It is also crucial to allow yourselves time to repair on your own, so you can each reflect on your own actions.
Arguments happen and they are a normal part of any relationship. No one needs to take all the blame all the time, and the goal is that you should resolve your arguments so that your relationship can continue to grow and so that you two may grow as individuals.
Lastly, down below, you can find a list of resources that we have found helpful and informative. Thank you for reading, remember to subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates on what is new at Lunita.
National Domestic Violence - Help from trained professionals for cases of domestic abuse.
The Best Way to Fight with Your Partner - TIME Article
How to Repair an Argument - Jayson Gaddis
Love is Respect - A great resource for more information on healthy relationships
How to Argue With Your Partner - The School of Life
How to Talk to Your Partner So They Will Listen- The School of Life