You’re in a loving relationship with the person who brings out the best in you – makes you laugh, brings alive your joie de vivre, supports you when you need it most. So why do you disagree so much?
Ironically, though you may be engaging in conversation when you’re arguing (heated though it may be!), you’re not likely to be communicating. Communication is to express one’s true feelings easily. Communicating openly and honestly helps build the foundation beneath your relationship – whether it’s romantic or platonic, business or pleasure. It allows for a more trustful partnership, and it needs to be done away from heated words and feelings.
So how do we use communication wisely and do away with non-productive encounters? First, accept that each of you has your own quirks. If it’s in your nature to be a fastidious fussbudget (maybe you’re a Virgo!) and it’s more natural for your partner to indulge in slobbery (a Taurus perhaps?), it’s not likely that either of you will change. Choose words wisely, when you begin to disagree, to avoid further misunderstandings and subsequent arguments. Starting out conversations with “You always…” or “I hate when…” invites angry defensive responses that are likely to develop into a counterattack.
Second, recognize that when you’re arguing about the pile of dirty clothes they’ve shucked off onto the bedroom floor, that’s not really what you’re upset about. Your anger is likely being misdirected to that tangible, visible example of something that irks you. But what’s truly gnawing at you is something that’s gone unsaid – perhaps they unintentionally slighted you or made a major decision without consulting you or arranged their schedule in such a way that it didn’t accommodate your needs. Who knows?
Well, actually you do know. And it’s your job to communicate with your partner as soon as possible so that your anger doesn’t fester. Relationship experts agree on several effective methods to manage conflict – all of which are communication-based:
1) Take a deep breath and count to three before addressing any issue. It sounds like a lesson for pre-schoolers, but it’s just as successful for adults. By regulating your breathing and slowly counting to three (okay, maybe you need to count to 10 if it’s a particularly aggravating issue), you’re forcing your body to calm itself and also allowing yourself to think more clearly. World-known yogi Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa advises students to make a deep WAH sound, from the gut, to alleviate stress and calm oneself. Try it now – it really works!
2) Sometimes it helps to leave the room and go for a brisk walk. This works both physically, because it de-stresses you by providing oxygen and using your muscles, and mentally, because it allows you time to think about what you want to say.
3) Choose a neutral time to discuss conflict or make an appointment to assess an issue. This will allow you to devote yourself to a specific point of contention. It’s important that you agree beforehand to stay on point and not stray from the topic that’s causing conflict.
4) Agree to only use “loving speech,” preferably from the onset of your relationship. Name-calling is not only unproductive, but once a harsh word is said, that bell cannot be un-rung and will forever be echoing in the hurt party’s mind.
5) Don’t be afraid to start off a conversation with “I’m angry… and this is why…” By doing so, you’re calmly saying how you feel, and then elucidating the reasons that have led up to your emotional reaction. Also be prepared with some productive suggestions. If you’re angry because your partner spends too much time at the office and not enough with you, then calmly say, “I’m feeling bad that we’re not spending enough time together. I know how important your work is, so let’s look at the calendar and pick some times just for us.”
6) No whining, hitting or pouting. You’re a grown up, so act like one. Unfold your arms, stop sticking your lower lip out…just talk. Talk about your needs and their needs and what compromises you can make to ensure that you accommodate each other.
Couples who love and respect each other can usually find ways to resolve their differences, but sometimes even the most devoted pairs may need the help of outside counsel. In such cases, don’t delay until matters have gotten so out of hand that neither of you can see clearly. Find someone who can work with you objectively – couples counseling is highly effective and often has you approach your relationship from a point of view that neither of you had considered before.
Ultimately, if you care enough to do something about your constant bickering, it means that your relationship is important to you. So remember the reasons why you’re with your partner in the first place and ensure that you show your appreciation for all the positive aspects of your relationship – and life together.
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