Arguing a lot won’t destroy your relationship

How you argue is far more important than how much you argue


Arguing has a purpose

First of all, what the hell are you arguing for? Are you doing it just to let off some steam because you’re livid? Are you doing it to try and hurt the other person, because you yourself feel hurt? It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes protege to realise that these are shit reasons for arguing, dude. You won’t feel better about yourself once the other person feels like shit, and if you do, you either don’t like your partner that much or you’re a sociopath, in which case, I’m not sure I can help because I’m not a licensed psychotherapist.

But appreciate you won’t solve everything, and forgive

Of course, there aren’t solutions to every problem. People are different, and they have different perspectives on things — sometimes irreconcilable ones. There’s something to be said for showing some empathy (or Verständnis [understanding] as my German girlfriend insists on always calling it) to the perspectives of your ball ’n’ chain, because not everything is gonna go away. If your partner’s personality pisses you off so much that you get annoyed at every little thing they do, well, maybe you’re an insensitive twat who can’t appreciate that a diversity of personalities makes social relationships worth having. Or maybe you just need to work on some empathy. If your inamorata does something that you just can’t get your head around, instead of getting pissed off and criticising what your partner’s done or showing contempt for their actions, maybe try asking them why they did what they did. What was going through their head at the time? Why do they sometimes act differently to you, in a way you may not be able to comprehend? Are men really from Mars and women from Venus, or is it possible to figure out what’s going on in other people’s heads by fucking asking them?

Don’t get sidetracked by irrelevant fights from the past

Focus on one thing at a time. Why did this particular thing aggravate you? Is there a solution to this problem? Is it even a problem, or are you blowing something out of proportion, you dramatic idiot? The worst thing you can do is start throwing accusations around about bigger issues that might not be totally relevant at the moment. Figure out what the current problem is, and forget about your past wrongs. Most of the time, when the argument gets sidetracked and you start getting pissed off about every little thing they’ve done in the past, even about things you haven’t thought about in months, the argument isn’t going to be particularly conducive to reparations.

Pick your battles, and admit when you’re wrong

It helps to take a step back and figure out exactly what it is you’re pissed off about. How big a deal is this thing really, in the grand scheme of things? Is it seriously worth getting fucked off about the way they spoke to someone else really briefly instead of paying attention to you, or the fact that they forgot a fork when they did the washing up, or that they didn’t agree with you about the best way to get back from the bar? Are these really worth tampin’ about? You know there are wars going on, right?

Be open and mature about your problems

But none of this advice makes any sense if you aren’t totally honest with one another and don’t have secrets. Being mature about your problems starts with admitting they exist — and trust, they exist. Every relationship has problems (mine’s got a harvest of ‘em), and some problems you might never solve. That’s okay. You don’t need to solve everything. How you deal with the fact that you have problems is what’s important. Being open, honest, and mature about the issues the two of you have to face, together, not being afraid to share them and explore their causes, will make it easier for the two of you (or three, or more — I’m not judging) to sort them tf out. Because that’s really what you want, isn’t it? To sort your shit out? The willingness to fight to try and sort your shit out even if you can’t, to have those open conversations about the gross and annoying and ugly stuff — that’s a big tick in the ‘bloody excellent relly’ box.

A pinch of salt

Of course, all of yours-truly’s non-professional advice given above is more-than-sometimes not followed by yours truly. Arguing well is hard work. It’s easy to get caught up on the little things that don’t really matter, to fail to show understanding and empathy for the other person’s viewpoint, to get angry when you need to stay calm, and to get sidetracked by past hurts that may or may not be relevant to the issue at hand. But striving to argue better is a worthy aim in and of itself. Making the attempt to do all of these things shows maturity and, more important, a willingness to make the decision to be more in love and have a better relationship with your partner. True, being able to argue better doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll argue less — but it does mean you’ll learn to be more forgiving and less critical of the things the other person does.

Peter Hitchens once told me I have no sense of humour. Twitter/Insta: @JamesMAlston Bookstagram: @thebibliographer

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