I've been married for 19 years and we have certainly spent some of that time arguing, every couple does. We argue because we don't see eye to eye on a subject, we argue because we are hurt, and we argue because of things that happened in our past that are impacting the way we see each other.
People often believe that happy couples don't argue but that is a fairy tale that ended with "and they lived happily ever after". Real relationships are created by individuals who have agreed to share a life together and they see the world through more than one set of eyes. Couples who learn to listen and communicate effectively are the couples that last.
There are three main choices that many people make that lead to ongoing arguments with the people they love the most. These apply not only to couples but to other kinds of relationships as well: parent-child, siblings, friends, and co-workers.
1. Complaining about what you aren't getting.
It is very difficult to respond to a complaint with anything except defensiveness. When people are defensive they stop listening and start deflecting or attacking. Instead try asking for what you want in clear, respectful, and straightforward language. I frequently work with couples to learn positive communication strategies to do just this.
2. Making assumptions about someone's thoughts, actions, and motivations.
The number one rule of all relationships is that no one is a mind reader. No matter how well you know someone or think they know you, if you expect them to know what you think, believe, or want without you telling them you are setting your partner and your relationship up to fail. Clear communication is the foundation for a happy relationship.
3. Fighting about surface issues rather than talking about what is really bothering you.
Sometimes a fight about taking out the trash is just about the trash, however, sometimes it’s about deeper feelings, needs, or beliefs. If you find yourselves having the same argument it might be time to take a step back and consider what might be underneath.
The number one response to complaining and criticism is defensiveness, not change. Even if the person does what you want they likely feel resentful and angry about it, which is never good for the relationship. Asking clearly for what you want and need with love and respect is by far the best way to get what you want and need. This is communicated through the words you chose, the tone of voice, and your facial expressions.
Arguing is probably the #1 issue couples bring to coaching. Changing just one aspect of the way you communicate with other people will make a significant difference in the tone and quality of your relationships. It only takes one person to begin making a difference in the relationship by making these changes, however if both people gain awareness and begin working to improve these issues the improvements are faster and more impactful.
Wishing you the best,
Angela Hayes, BS, Certified Master Life Coach