Everyone in a long-term relationship has a disagreement with their partner at one time or another. If pop culture portrayals of couples were to be believed, those disagreements would regularly involve shouting, throwing things, or storming out of the house, but that’s rarely the case. There are, of course, some real-life couples who also argue in this explosive manner, but it’s certainly not healthy.
Most couples in successful long-term relationships learn that they can have disagreements, but that their difference in opinion doesn’t mean getting into a destructive fight. Here’s a look at some of the most common mistakes that you and your partner should strive to avoid when arguing.
5 Common Mistakes Couples Make When Arguing
Bringing up past arguments. You should never keep score in your relationship, and airing out past grievances while you’re in the middle of an argument with your partner is only going to exacerbate the problem. Instead, focus on explaining how you feel about the issue at hand and allowing your partner to express their thoughts as well.
Character assassination. Attacking someone’s character is bad rhetoric in any situation, but it’s particularly damaging when you decide to bring up things you don’t like about your partner’s actions or behavior during a disagreement. If something that your partner has done is bothering you, explain how their behavior has made you feel rather than just framing their behavior in a negative light.
Failing to take a break when things get out of hand. You should never just storm out of the room during an argument, but if the fight is escalating to a point where you and your partner are allowing emotions to cloud your judgment, you’re likely to do and say things you’ll later regret. When things are getting out of hand, say something like, “Can we take a break for a little while and talk about this again when we’ve calmed down?” Set a time to continue your discussion so that you do not just indefinitely avoid the issue.
Placing blame. Nobody likes being blamed, and putting the sole responsibility for a relationship issue on your partner is likely to put them on the defensive. Take a step back and think about the role that you’ve played in the relationship issue, then take personal responsibility.
Making no effort to empathize. All too often, couples will become so focused on their grievances that they’ll fail to think about how their partner is feeling. This is, in my opinion, the biggest mistake couples can make when arguing. Healthy relationships are based on working to understand your partner as a whole person, and that includes trying to understand how they’re feeling even when you’re arguing.
If you want to learn how to better empathize with your partner—or if you want to learn more about arguing in a healthy manner—consider coming into Houston couples counseling.