How to Stop Arguing

One of the lessons that I have learned from my marriage is that in an intimate relationship one can experience few and elusive moments of bliss, which are amazing, and much more frequent instances where upset and arguments arise.

In his book “The Power of Now” Eckart Tolle says that an intimate relationship is a “spiritual practice” and that “a relationship is not here to make you happy but to make you conscious”.

So, far from being pure bliss, an intimate relationship is an opportunity to sculpt one’s emotional muscles, it’s a spiritual and psychological practice….at least based on my experience.

There are many reasons why arguments arise, but what I have found is that it always boils down to the fact that there are instances in which we are in a bad mood and our partner becomes an easy target and start blaming the other person for how he or she is failing to meet our needs, especially if our partner is adding fuel to the fire of our bad mood by saying or doing something that doesn’t sit well with our already negative state.

What we fail to realize when we believe that our partner is failing to meet our needs for happiness is that we are the only ones who are responsible for our own happiness.

Happiness is not a tangible fact, rather it’s a feeling, an emotion that depends on what we choose to focus on.

In an ideal scenario an emotionally developed person should take responsibility for his/her feelings and not blame them on their partner.

But what happens in real life is that a negative mood often lead to arguments.

What’s the solution when the atmosphere gets intense?

What I have learned from the school of hard knocks is that there are basically the following ways to deal with a very angry spouse.

The first is to avoid engaging our spouse if the atmosphere is too intense, which literally means leaving the scene of the discussion or calmly trying to tell our spouse to postpone the discussion until the intense feelings and emotions subside.

However there are instances in which, even if we see it fit to leave the scene, our partner doesn’t give us this chance and wants to engage us then and there.

When this happens the best course of action is listening, allowing our partner to freely release his/her negative energy without trying to defend ourselves (even if we are right) or correct our partner, as this would only add more fuel to the fire.

In other words, what needs to happen is that we acknowledge that our partner is having those feelings and simply allow him/her to vent those without trying to deny his/her reality.

If we can maintain enough self control and allow our partner to fully release his/her energy, listen attentively and, instead of venting back, blaming them for having misinterpreted our behavior, defending, denying or anything like that, say something along the lines of “tell me more”, “go on, I am listening” and, once our partner is done with his/her monologue and verbal attack we say something that conveys the idea that we are taking responsibility for how our partner feels like “I am sorry for having said/done…..and having made you feel……”.

So, the whole idea here is that we allow our partner to fully express him/herself by saying “and what else?” or “tell me more” without interrupting, defending, correcting or denying and then apologizing for having put fuel on the fire of his/her feelings by saying or doing something that in that moment was a source of upset.

Even if what happened is that we were sincerely trying to do the right thing and we had woken up with the best intentions but inadvertently did or said something that our partner labelled as upsetting and we feel that the only reason why our partner is upset is because he or she is dwelling on the worst possible meaning, that he or she is completely misinterpreting our intentions, the wise thing to do is to always acknowledge and validate our partner’s feelings and not try to deny, justify, minimize or correct in any way because that would just not work.

The reality might be that our partner is overreacting, misinterpreting and misjudging our motives, yet the circumstances are that our partner feels how she or he feels and this is hard to change by explaining, justifying, correcting etc.

What happens if we do any of these things is that we are subtly blaming our partner and blame shuts people, especially angry people, off, it doesn’t make them want to hear what we have to say and the argument can only get out of control and turn into something really really nasty.

Hope it helps….

How to Stop Arguing in a Relationship

Few months ago I wrote a post where I shared the idea that I have chosen to operate from to avoid arguments.

The idea is that my wife and I are on the same boat or the same (relation)ship, so arguing with my (relation)ship mate can only cause the (relation)ship to sink even further.

Well, while this idea is nice on paper, there are times in which heated arguments do happen in my relationship and the ship metaphor flies out of the window.

Usually I am hardly the one who initiates the argument, as I am a rather peaceful person.

My wife comes from a culture where people are a little more mainit ang ulo or hot-tempered than the average Westerner so arguments do take place despite my best intentions.

LEAVE THE SCENE IF POSSIBLE

It has been said that it takes two people to have an argument so an easy way to avoid arguing would be removing myself from the situation and going somewhere else to wait for the storm to pass.

But, as it has also been nicely said, sometimes you cannot avoid the storm and you have to learn how to dance in the rain.

There are many circumstances in which I cannot simply leave the scene of the argument and I have to face my wife’s upset head on.

Because, as I said, Filipinos are very emotional they easily and quickly jump to wrong conclusions if I come across in a way that triggers their emotions so it happens quite often that I do or say things that are not inherently wrong or offensive but come across as such.

My natural tendency was to prove myself right and my wife wrong by defending and justifying so the argument would go on forever.

I have discovered two very effective ways to deal with my wife’s strong emotions and face her upset head on when there is no possibility to run away from it by going somewhere else.

JUST LISTEN WITHOUT DEFENDING OR JUSTIFYING

Arguments occur when she attacks and I defend or counterattack instead of just listening.

If I try to clarify what my wife said and immediately respond to her no one is listening and what we are doing is that we are arguing, even if I may have good intentions for trying to clarify.

I have noticed that if she attacks and I abstain from defending myself and making her wrong and just allow her to let off all of her steam I can aikido her lashing out.

The art of aikido is a martial art that consists of rendering the “opponent” harmless.

So by abstaining from responding I am creating an environment where the anger fizzles out instead of going on forever.

I just allow her to vent without interrupting. It doesn’t matter if I am right and she has completely misinterpreted my behavior. I just allow her to let off steam until she eventually stops. I don’t need to physically remove myself from the situation, I just kind of aikido her anger.

APOLOGIZE FOR THE IMPACT

However there are circumstances in which she won’t stop arguing until I have given her an answer.

In this case the best strategy is to apologize for the impact, not for what I did wrong, if I am convinced I was right, but rather for how I have come across to her. In Tagalog that would be “sori para sa dating sa iyo” (“I am sorry for COMING ACROSS that way”).

I must admit that sometimes that doesn’t work either because it sounds to her as a form of subtle blame, as if I were trying to say “it is not my fault, it is yours because I did or said the right thing but you misperceived it.

SOMETIMES ARGUMENTS OCCUR NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO

So, whenever my wife feels the urge to argue I try, if possible, to go somewhere else.

If this is not possible or practical, I try to aikido the argument by either trying to listen without interrupting or trying to let her know that I am sorry for my impact.

But there are times in which no one of these things work.

I cannot leave the scene because she wants to talk, I cannot just let her vent because she wants an answer and if I apologize for the impact she says that it was not just the impact but I did indeed say or do things with the wrong motive.

So what I have learned is that eliminating arguments for good is not possible in an intimate relationship.

The reality is that arguments do occur no matter what I try to do.

But what I can do is do the best I can to minimize them and, over the past five years, arguments have drastically diminished in my relationship.

I am aware of the fact that my wife comes from a culture where the average Filipino is more emotional than the average Westerner so I remind myself that she is doing what she knows how to do given the environment she grew up in.

I would love to be in a relationship in which there are no arguments and I would love to ditch arguments for good but this is not possible.

But I am happy because, by applying the methods I have mentioned in this post, I have been able to minimize arguments a lot and contribute to create an amazing environment in my love life.