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3 Steps to Effective Arguing

3 Steps to Effective Arguing

Fair Fighting Rules For Couples

Have you ever had an argument with your partner that feels like it is going in circles? Or have you ever had a big sense of deja-vu when you and your partner argue, like you have had the same argument ten times? It is very common for couples to fall into a slump when it comes to communication and they feel like they are not getting through to each other.

In my experience as a marriage counselor, premarital counselor, and couples therapist, couples tend to express how hard it is to communicate with each other because the conversations “always” turn into arguments. But, something that may come as a surprise is that arguments are a form of communication and can be very productive if done right. In fact, if you know how to handle yourself in potentially difficult moments, you can turn a nasty argument into a productive discussion.

“Right Fighting” in Relationships

Yes, I am saying there is a right way to argue, and a wrong way. And you may be saying to yourself, “arguments are never good” or “if we are arguing, it can’t be right.” Although I agree that excessive, hurtful, and intense arguments can be a sign of discord in your relationship, I also suggest that when done right, arguments (aka, “passionate conversations”) can be an effective and productive way to improve and even enhance your relationship. So what do I mean by done “right?” Here are three steps that will help bring structure and purpose to your next disagreement with your partner.

3 Steps to Productive Conflict in Your Relationship

Step 1: Timing

Does it feel like you arguments always seem to happen at the wrong time, in the wrong place? When we have something to say we want to say it now. And it is important to get your feelings out, but think about the timing. Be aware of when your partner seems to be more available to talk. And I even suggest trying to get a read of how emotionally available your partner is too.

As intimate partners, we have a great sense of when our partner is in a good mood. It can be helpful to “test the waters” and let them know that you have something important to talk about, just to see if the time is right. I’m not saying you should sit on things or bury your feelings if the time just never seems right. But, we can all agree that trying to have an important conversation with your partner while their favorite sports team is on, or when they walk in the door mentally exhausted from work is very difficult.

Step one of having a productive discussion instead of a hurtful argument is being aware of the timing, and try to be intentional about when you bring up the “hot topics.”

Step 2: Message Received

Remember the old cell phone commercial where people in different locations were shouting, “Can you hear me now??” When a discussion has turned into a fight that is going badly, it can feel like we want to yell that at our partner sometimes. It just feels like they don’t hear us, or they don’t get it.

When couples come to me feeling unheard by their partner it tends to be related to the way they communicate feelings and how their partner receives the message. You send it, they receive it. A great way for couples to ensure they are each heard in conversations and arguments, is to check in on what you hear. When your partner is done talking, you can ask, “Is this what you mean?” Or, say, “I hear you saying this… is that right?” Carefully checking in to make sure you’re understanding your partner gives clarity, and the chance to correct each other if your wires ever get crossed.

Step 3: What now?

The last step to productive discussions is simply saying, “What now?” It is important to have a clear plan going forward after every argument. Think of it like a game plan for your relationship. When you have picked a good time, made sure the message was received correctly, and that you’ve both heard each other, say… ”what now?”

When you shift the conversation away from how you’re feeling, towards what you can each do to solve the problem or improve the situation is what ultimately makes any conflict productive. Saying “what now” allows you to brainstorm ideas, get back on the same page, and actually fix things so that you don’t have to have the same argument over and over again.

Having a clear conclusion to every argument is crucial. When we leave things open, or we don’t talk about what we are going to do moving forward, it creates a negative cycle: Sooner or later, you’re going to disappoint each other again. Even if the “what now” comes a couple days later (after you’re both feeling calmer), it is important to make sure you come back together and have a solution-focused conversation.

While arguments can feel challenging in the moment, they’re a great opportunity for you both to get your feelings and needs out in the open. Then, you can use the new information that came from your “passionate conversation” as a roadmap to make positive changes to your relationship that deepen your connection.

Communication Tips to Make Your Good Relationship Great

Communication Tips to Make Your Good Relationship Great

The Key to Happiness? Prioritizing Your Relationship

The results are in; research has confirmed that human beings are biologically and physiologically wired to connect to others and exist in relationship with others.  The science confirms something we have known intuitively to be true for some time: that to be truly seen and heard, and to feel that we truly exist, we need healthy relationships with others, whether it be with family, friends, or a romantic love partner.

In fact, Harvard Medical school’s ongoing 75-year Grant Study, the longest running study of human development in history, found that the single biggest predictor of life satisfaction is not money, power, or possessions. No, the results showed that the key to happiness is, in fact, love and connection, and warm human relationships.

What’s more, further research has demonstrated that those of us in relationships live longer and experience better health, both physically and emotionally.

So why does it still feel so hard at times to relate, to communicate, to love, and to stay in love? Here are some tips to help you take care of the most important part of your life: Your relationships.

Want an Amazing Relationship? Dig a Little Deeper…

If you want a truly exceptional relationship, the place to start might be with your personal history. The first and longest relationship we experience is usually with our parents.  We absorb whatever they model for us in their relationship. You could say that when I work with a couple, I actually have six people in the room with me: the couple and each partner’s parents!

For example, if one member of a couple had parents who fought all the time, they may bring a volatile, argumentative style of communication (Read: How to Handle An Angry Partner) to their current relationship.  Alternatively, they may tell themselves that they want to avoid the hostility they witnessed between their parents at all costs, so they may be excessively accommodating with their own partner. (Read: How To Communicate With a Partner Who Shuts Down). Either way, by knowing our own and our partner’s history, it can help us understand and break the relational patterns we repeat over and over without even thinking, giving us more choice in how we respond to one another in the present.

Once we understand our history and its effect on who we are now, the next goal is to foster quality communication, which helps to deepen bonds and enables people to turn toward each other instead of away when things start to heat up.

Cultivating Communication That Connects: Understanding Your Feelings

The most important skill needed to communicate more effectively is to be able to locate within ourselves what is happening for us inside—our core feeling—so that we can express it.  After all, it’s never about the dirty dishes in the sink (which can be annoying!), but rather what feeling lies under the experience. Maybe the feeling is disrespect, and under that a lack of caring, and under that a core belief, “I must not matter.”

Self Awareness is Key to Healthy Communication

When we understand what’s happening inside of us, and can slow down, we can use “I statements” (“I feel disrespected when you don’t help with the dishes.”) rather than “you statements” (“You always leave the dishes for me!”). Speaking with “you statements” and accusations often makes others feel attacked so they get defensive, which is a sure fire way to shut down that all-important communication.

Instead, when a statement comes from a place of feeling, from your heart, it has more impact. I suggest that my clients always address the feelings first before they dive into other matters. It can also be helpful to listen carefully and paraphrase what you heard back to your partner.

Improve Your Communication: Expert Tips To Put Into Practice Today

Let’s put this into practice and check out the two very different conversations:

Conversation 1:

  • You’re ignoring me again, like you always do after work! You’re so selfish! (“you statements” and accusations)
    • No I’m not, I just had a busy day. Sheesh, why are you always on my case? (defensiveness)
  • If that’s the way you feel about it, why do you even bother coming home? (escalation, denial of desire to connect)
    • Fine! If you don’t want me here, I’ll leave!

Boy, that didn’t go very well. Those partners are both really feeling hurt, and are having such a hard time connecting. How might they try this differently?

Conversation 2:

  • I’m feeling hurt because I felt ignored by you when you came home today. (“I statement,” identifying the feeling, no accusation)
    • You’re feeling hurt because you think I was ignoring you? Is that right? (paraphrasing)
  • Yes, I felt really terrible. (conflict is de-escalating)
    • I see. I’m so sorry, it wasn’t my intention. (addressing the hurt feelings) I’ve been feeling worried about the big budget meeting coming up. (shares a feeling also)
  • Oh, you were thinking about the meeting! (paraphrasing) I totally forgot about that. I know it’s a big deal, but I wonder if we can find a way to connect when you get home, because I miss you. (invitation for intimacy)

When we speak from the heart, understanding can begin, and that fosters connection.  The truth is, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and valued in our relationships.  However, this isn’t easy. After all, a good relationship takes work, but the rewards are tremendous: emotional balance, physical well-being, and the knowledge that we truly matter.  

 

Why You Actually Should Go to Bed Angry

Why You Actually Should Go to Bed Angry

Sometimes the #relationshipadvice you get is just plain wrong.

That old cliche, “you should never go to bed angry” is among the worst. (Trust me, all marriage counselors worth their salt roll their eyes when they hear it). Here’s why you should actually sleep it off, and come back to it in the morning. I hope that this perspective helps you both avoid a nasty argument the next time things start to get heated.

 

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

Looking for free relationship advice from a marriage counselor? Here it is…

Everyone needs relationship advice sometimes, and it can be hard to know where to go for trustworthy advice that will help you repair your relationship. (Sadly, much of what you find online is not evidence-based). One of the most meaningful things I do in my role here as a marriage counselor and relationship coach is putting lots of free information out into the world, in hopes that it connects with you at your time of need. Today, I’m making a show of it. Literally.

I have people from all over the world, asking fantastic (and heartfelt) relationship questions. I read every single one. I’ve been listening to you, and hearing what you’re looking for help with. So today, I’m answering your questions. I’ve picked a handful of a few of the most frequent types of relationship questions I commonly hear, and am addressing them personally on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

On today’s show I’m dishing out some real relationship advice that answers your questions, like:

  • “How to I manage my own ‘baggage’ in such a way as to not negatively impact my relationship?”
  • “Should I let a relationship go, or give it another try?”
  • “My husband is totally withdrawing and won’t talk to me — what do I do?”
  • “We are fighting about everything: Kids, communication, finances, and more. How do we even start repairing this?”

I bet you can relate to some of these, and if so I hope that my perspective finds the two of you help you find your way back together again.

Do you have a question for an upcoming episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast? Leave it in the comments — I might use them on a “Relationship Questions, Round 2” podcast soon!

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Music Credits: “Falcon Eyed” by Cate Le Bon

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Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
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