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Marriage Counseling: How to Make Arguments More Productive
Marriage Counseling: How to make arguments more productive
Communication is key. You might have heard that phrase before. Communication plays an important role in all our relationships, including marriage. It is important in healthy romantic relationships to work together with your partner, to try and be on the same page. Communication is one of our main tools to share our thoughts and emotions with each other and ensure we are on the same page. And communication is central in marriage counseling, too.
Communication between partners takes many forms. It can be direct conversations, texts or even the look your partner gives you when they’re ready to leave a party and go home. Communication is anything we do to send and receive information. It is healthy to share a wide range of emotions in communication with your partner. Even disagreements can have a positive place in our communication! (Related article: Fixing How You Fight in Couples Therapy)
The way we choose to communicate is personal but there are guidelines of what behaviors may be helpful or harmful. Certain communication patterns can make our relationships harder. Again, arguments are a healthy part of relationships! Working through differences can be an opportunity to grow together and better understand each other. However, how you disagree, matters. Bellow are three things to consider in how you argue with your partner.
Remember that you are not a mind reader
Unless you happen to have superpowers like the X Men’s Professor X, you are not a mind reader (for better or for worse). Neither is your partner. This means we can misunderstand each other and wrongly assume what the other wants, thinks or feels. When we base our own emotions, actions, and behaviors off these assumptions we may inadvertently harm our relationships. Remember to ask your partner questions and listen to their perspective to avoid misunderstandings.
With misunderstandings it is also important to note that we can give our partners mixed messages in how we argue. For example, let’s say you come home at the end of a stressful day. Your partner asks how you are doing. You respond by saying “I’m fine” before slamming the door shut (Related Article: How to Fix Communication in a Relationship).
Your words have said “I am fine” but your actions hint at something else. Remember, your partner is not a mind reader. How is your partner supposed to respond? Do they leave you alone or do they comfort you? Your partner cannot understand your needs if you do not communicate them clearly.
Avoid The Winner Mentality
Sometimes we can treat arguments like an opportunity to prove that we are right and the other person is wrong. While being “right” can feel good in the moment, it doesn’t encourage the “loser” to understand our perspective and often doesn’t lead to effective change.
Relationships are like team sports. Imagine that you are running a relay together. You may run the fastest and leave the competition in the dust. But if you are so focused on how fast you are running that you forget to pass the baton to your teammate, you still lose as a team.
If you are so focused on making your points that you are not listening to what the other has to say, you are both losing (Related article: Conflict Prevention Skills in Relationship Counseling).
The winner mentality can also lead to “low blows”. If one partner feels backed into a corner and like they have to win the argument they may lash out and try to “get even” by attacking the other personally. Suddenly a disagreement on how to budget can become a fight now how “you stopped being fun after we got married” or “you are irresponsible and need to act like an adult”.
The winner mentality rarely leads to compromise, each person better understanding each other, or a positive agreed solution.
Sometimes arguing is needed
Do you and your partner “never argue?” Some may see this as a positive. Less arguing means that you and your partner get along, right? Not necessarily. “Never arguing” does not mean that there are not disagreements or issues. It may mean that contention is just being avoided (Related Article: Debunking Marriage Myths: “Happy Couples Never Argue”).
You and your partner may both feel uncomfortable with arguing. This may come from negative experiences with arguing, a belief that arguing is bad, or general anxiety around confrontation.
These unaddressed issues can become an elephant in the room. Since no one is addressing it or dealing with the issue it has to just sit there, taking up space. You may feel uncomfortable arguing with your partner, but can things change for the better or be resolved if you don’t discuss the issue? As difficult as it may feel if something is important and needs to change, you may need to talk it through with your partner!
Marriage Counseling Can Help You Fix How You Fight
All of these communication habits can feel hard to break. Even if we know patterns are unhealthy, they can feel comfortable and familiar. With all of these communication concerns a therapist can help! In therapy you can examine the ways you communicate, what your underlying needs are that aren’t being addressed, and how to form healthy habits in your communication.
Ready to begin? Start marriage counseling in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork, or Telehealth couples therapy for anyone in Utah.
Written By Emily Helms, MFTI