Every relationship is going to have moments of disagreement: Conflict is natural, but we aren’t necessarily taught how to handle it! One moment, you’re arguing with your partner about the price of an upcoming trip, and the next you’re embroiled in a fight so massive it could sink the relationship.
How do you navigate an argument without getting into a screaming match or saying things you both will regret later? Here, we have some handy tips on how to get out of an argument with your grace intact.
Almost no issue is worth making a huge scene about. Most of the time, arguments happen because one person’s pride is in the way. Yes, it’s hard in the moment to stay calm, but look at it this way: An argument is an investment of time and care. It doesn’t make sense to devote two hours to arguing about Dominos or Pizza Hut!
Before you make a huge scene at your favourite restaurant, take a breath and ask yourself: Is this important? Parse out the disagreements worth discussing (whether you want kids, say) from the ones that are a waste of energy. After all, couples don’t even remember most of the things they got angry about later on. Swallowing your pride is an option, and has the added bonus of not ruining the rest of your day.
When you feel yourself getting irate, stop and ask yourself if you can put off this discussion. A lot of relationship fights happen when one half of the couple is tense. If you’ve just got back from an exhausting day at the office, or are tired or hungry, try and put off your disagreement.
A simple “I don’t think this is a good time — can we continue this later?” can be an effective way to tackle emotional arguments. When you revisit it later, you will be in a calmer, more fair-minded mood and won’t say things you might repent.
It’s tempting to bring up old arguments or issues in the relationship when you want to score points. But don’t do it — it’s absolutely not fair to the other person to drag it into ugly territory. What started as a simple, easy-to-resolve fight will turn into a simmering resentment that is much more difficult to eradicate. Keep your focus on the immediate issue, don’t expand the arena of the fight.
Tell yourself there is always time to say more later. You can bring up grievances later, but you can’t take back things that you said in the heat of the moment! Try to stay relatively restrained in your speech, and this will prevent the disagreement from going into any dark places. If you don’t hit below the belt, she won’t either.
Gaslighting — making your partner feel like they’re being irrational or imagining things — is easy to do in arguments.
Just like yours are, your partner’s feelings are valid, no matter what they are. If your partner is experiencing a strong emotional reaction to something you’re saying, there’s probably a reason for it. Slow down and ask yourself “How can I make my partner feel heard?” Instead of making judgmental statements about their reaction, ask yourself why they feel that way. Asking questions without jumping to conclusions is always a wise choice.
“Stop acting crazy.”
“You’re totally overreacting. I never said that.”
“You need to calm down. You’re being hysterical over nothing right now.”
“I want to understand why you say that.”
“I hear that you’re feeling frustrated right now.”
“What do you think the problem is?”
No matter how strongly you feel about what you’re saying, watch the tone of your voice. It’s easy to slip into a mode of aggression: You may not even be aware you’re doing it! Be careful not to let your voice go above a certain volume. Ensuring you are patient and calm will help them stay calm as well, without frightening them inadvertently. If your partner does point out that you’re yelling, lower your tone of voice immediately and apologise without disputing it.
Maybe your views on religion are never going to align. That’s accepted. What can you do about it? If you’ve hit a dead end and don’t know what to do, try and end the discussion on as pleasant a note as possible. After all, this is still the person you love and respect. Focus on what you do agree with.
“I agree that it’s not fair on you to have to move when the economy’s so uncertain. I may not agree with the other points you brought up, but I definitely agree with you on the moving issue.”
When the arguments over, let it stay dead. Don’t keep that negative energy going, or be petty afterward. Tell them that you won’t carry any hard feelings forward. A frank, sweet admission like that will disarm them, and you can continue your loving relationship without wasting time being mad at each other. Good luck!
This story was originally published on Ask Men.