Disagreements, even major ones, don’t have to become fights that can end the relationship. Unfortunately, that’s not how it feels when you’re in the thick of it. But take heart, there’s plenty you can do to avoid ending it.
It’s normal to argue with someone you are close to. Disagreements are part of life, how could that not be? Two people, means two identities, each with its own hopes, dreams, values, history… and all the rest that makes each of us unique.
Successful couples that last a long time develop tactics which strengthen rather than corrode their relationship.
These differences must lead, now and again, to friction. But, unless you are careful, ‘now and again’ becomes ‘again and again’. Regular, repeated arguments that can erode the relationship to a point where one or both of you decide to end it.
Don’t do it!
Separations are hard enough. What’s worse is that they ripple out and cause damage way beyond the initial pain:
- Painful partings scar us emotionally
- Separation costs us financially
- ‘Shared’ friends distance themselves
- Loss of the relationship means loss of companionship
- Extended family can suffer
- If there are children, they lose out
- Work and career can be affected
- And unforeseen collateral damage.
In short, everything will be unsettled for some time to come, and so will you be. When arguing turns into fights that can end the relationship, watch out!
I’m not preaching
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of relationship evangelist who says you should stay together no matter what (how could I be given my marital history).
Sometimes separation is the best course and, if there’s emotional or physical abuse, it’s an essential one. I’m just saying, do it with your eyes open to what lies before you, that’s all.
The thing is the arguments that lead to fights that can end the relationship are not usually about what you think you are arguing about. It causes what I call a meta-argument; an argument about an argument, rather than a fight or dispute about whatever the difference was that caused it.
Raised emotion distorts your thinking, muddles communication and clouds the issue and distracts you both from the real issue. Find ways to reduce friction by talking over sensitive issues calmly, when you are not hurt or angry.
Accept and respect your differences
There is no right and wrong, just different. You can’t agree on everything and some traits and habits are deeply rooted. Find the space to accept these individual characteristics. Just because they act or believe differently from you doesn’t make them wrong. Show respect.
Discuss sensitive issues early
Couples that last a long time develop tactics which strengthen rather than corrode their relationship. You can learn from them. Discuss potential sore points before they become a problem.
Repair the damage
Understand that differences are signs of individuality, not signs of incompatibility. Work to build a relationship which can accommodate those individuals and build on their strengths.
If you must argue, learn how to do it right
Arguing need not be destructive, and productive arguing bears all the hallmarks of good communication.
A learning point
Learn to see an argument as an opportunity for learning about yourselves and your relationship.
This seems obvious but it is difficult to do. Learn to call a halt until things cool down. When you resume the conversation, make it about improving the relationship rather than blame and fault. Watch my video, How to Stop an Argument.
Recognise how your own pain can make you defensive and drive you to attack. Remember it’s probably the same for them. When you’ve found a way to explain it without holding them responsible, discuss it with your partner. Try some Emotional Frst Aid.
Compassion and understanding
Hard though it is in the heat of the moment aim for compassion and understanding rather than attack and annihilation. This means compassion for yourself, as well as your other half.
Get help if you need it, therapy is nothing to be afraid of and it should strengthen you as individuals and help you heal your relationship.