Arguing a lot won’t destroy your relationship
How you argue is far more important than how much you argue
My girlfriend and I argue a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean, like, a lot; getting through a day together without having had some kind of stupid spat about one thing or another is such a rarity that we feel the need to talk about it when it does happen: ‘Babe, did you notice we haven’t got annoyed with each other once today?’ Sometimes the arguments are big; sometimes they’re small. Sometimes they’re important, and having them makes sense (at least at the time); more often, they’re over next to nothing, and we both feel stupid after they’re over.
And I’m okay with it. Because although we’re at each other’s throats more than may seem healthy — and I can’t stress this enough: we argue a lot — I am of the opinion that we, by and large, argue with each other really, really well. Because it’s not how much you argue that makes a difference when you’re struggling through life as a couple, but the manner in which you argue. There’s a good way to argue and a bad way. The bad way ensures people are going to get hurt and reason is going to fall by the wayside while each of you attempts to be ‘in the right’. The good way necessitates empathy, patience, maturity, and recognition that you’re two different people who aren’t always going to come to a common agreement on what’s just happened — and that’s okay.
When two different people spend a lot of time together, they will have differing perspectives on certain events, and this will lead to conflict — it’s inevitable. Understanding that arguing a lot doesn’t mean your relationship sucks is important. But there are a few things to consider, to learn to do, to practise, before this understanding can be reached.
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.
The correct answer to wot the fuck r u arguin 4 is to find a solution to the problem. The whole point of disagreeing with someone is to find a solution to whatever the reason is you’re bickering. When you’re spending the majority of your time with just one other person, as a lot of people in relationships do, you’re going to disagree about stuff because it’s going to pretty quickly become clear that you’ve got personality traits that clash. But without trying to change the other person, there are often solutions that can be found to these disagreements. Your partner not clean up after themselves? Explain why it’s important to you that you’ve got a tidy space to live in. Lover taking jokes too personally? Calmly convince your partner out of their narcissistic perception that they’re the direct butt of every one of your jokes. SO not able to go a day without criticising you? Try to mitigate the problem by explaining to them how that makes you feel (shitty).
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?
There’s a lot to be said for simply letting stuff go, and forgiving. I’m not very good at forgiveness — it’s one of many of my uglier traits. I find it hard to not think about how I’ve been wronged in the past, because I’m sensitive and I’ve got a bit of a victim mentality. I’m working on it. But people are going to have different perspectives, my girlfriend is going to see things differently to me, and I can try to understand that; and when I can’t, I can let it go.
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.
And try and do all this while keeping your cool. Yelling often doesn’t help a conversation, although it might make you feel better. The likelihood is, though, it won’t make the other person feel better, and making them feel like crap isn’t the point of the argument — or have you forgotten that? Speaking of which, getting sidetracked might make you forget why you’re even having the argument in the first place, in which case, you may as well forget the whole thing, and why the hell are you yelling when you don’t even know what you’re fucked off about?! A good way of keeping your cool is taking a breather from the fight: five or ten minutes space away from one another to calm down, after which you can come back to the argument in a more rational state of mind and focus on the problem at hand.
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?
And if you do pick the wrong battle — or even if you pick the right one, but you’re on the wrong side of it — be mature enough to admit you’re wrong. This might not come easily to everyone. (It doesn’t come easily to my girlfriend. Or to me, for that matter. Or to anyone, actually.) Admitting you’re wrong doesn’t necessarily change anything, but conceding ground opens up space for the two of you to come back together in a more loving fashion. It’s important to apologise — and to actually mean it. Figure out why your partner is fucked off, and apologise for how you’ve made them feel, even if it wasn’t your intention to do so. And if you’re the one being apologised to — don’t brandish the concession your partner has given like a weapon, making them feel shit about themselves. Instead, see subtitle 2, paragraph 2: ‘forgiving’.
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.
At the end of the day, time spent having pointless arguments is time wasted, time which could be spent having more fun, doing things like cuddling while watching telly, going for walks, and arguing about politics and other things not related to your relationship. Therefore, make sure your arguments are as good as they can possibly be — and pick your battles wisely. For as Mark Twain wrote, ‘There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.’