For most people, arguing is hard on the physical body1.
When you become angry with your significant other, adrenaline floods your system. Your muscles tighten and your heart rate speeds up. Then your breath turns shallow and it’s hard to think clearly.
Though anger is a natural and healthy emotion, it becomes stressful when experienced frequently. Close relationships have the unique ability of contributing to life-altering stress levels. And seeing as stress is an underlying cause of 75%-90% of diseases,2 you want to be mindful of the quality of your interpersonal relationships.
Arguing with anyone can make your days feel unnaturally long. Arguing with your significant other can make you feel like you’re banging your head into a wall.
While conflict is unavoidable, arguing frequently is an indicator of deeper relationship issues.
When is arguing a red flag?
Arguing, the way we use it in the colloquial sense, means that all other avenues of communication have been exhausted.
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. And you may find yourself bickering from time to time over a temporary frustration. In fact, avoiding conflict because you’re afraid of it can be just as damaging as arguing too frequently.
When there are clear expectations set plus strong communication and maturity, there aren’t many things to argue about. This includes money, sexual intimacy, and other unmet needs because there is always another approach to problem-solving.
Once you get to the point of arguing, your conversation and negotiation have broken down.
This means that you aren’t taking the time to hear each other’s side and figure out a way to solve the problem. Extend this to a few days or weeks, and warning signs are at full alert that your relationship is in trouble.
If you’re stuck in a loop of constant fighting with your significant other, this article covers 5 tips to stop having unnecessary arguments and get back on the same page.
1. Stop trying to be right
The best way to stop arguing, overall, is to set yourself up to not need to argue in the first place. The first step in that direction is to stop trying to be right. When you fight to win, you miss an opportunity to tackle the real problem and grow from any resolution you reach. Which means you’re simply going to continue the cycle.
Have you ever found yourself trying to convince a toddler out of something they were sure of? No one stonewalls like a 3-year-old. Not needing to be right doesn’t mean making yourself a doormat. It simply demands that you act with more maturity.
One question I started to ask myself in relationships was “Is it important to be right or to be happy?” In the past, I’ve hurt friendships over the need to “win.” This simple mindset shift transformed the way I view arguments.
Your perspective shifts from a focus on the self to a focus on the relationship as a whole.
2. Define what isn’t okay
Frequent arguing increases the chances that you’re going to behave in a less than ideal way. It puts you in a reactive state and when you’re stuck reacting, you aren’t thinking. And when you’re not thinking it’s possible to resort to underhanded tactics out of sheer rage and exhaustion.
We typically learn these fundamental ways of handling conflict by growing up and witnessing how our parents handled conflict.
You have the definite signs your relationship is toxic from this article, and veering on emotional abuse if these behaviors are present:
- Shutting down or stonewalling
- Constantly leaving
- Psychological manipulation
- Breaking things
- Threatening to break up
Knowing what’s unacceptable in a relationship stems directly from knowing yourself and valuing your self-worth. When you have a principle you live by, the boundaries you set in a relationship are determined by your ultimate direction in life.
3. Understand most arguments are misunderstandings
Most arguments stem from differences in your personality or fundamental cognitive processes. Once you understand that most arguing or bickering is just the friction created by the differences in your personality, you stop fighting and start managing those differences.
One way to look at it is to ask yourself a question: How will you feel a year from now about this argument?
Research shows changing your focus from the current or near-term to the future can effectively shut down non-effective arguments.3 Chances are if the argument isn’t going to be important in a year you’re not getting to the core of what’s really wrong at that moment.
Asking the above question forces you to become more self-aware. It forces you to ask what is really important to you and your life’s happiness and the happiness of your relationship. You also stop assuming the worst of your significant other or that they are somehow out to get you.
4. Learn what communication really means
Learning how to become a great communicator was one way I discovered how to stop arguing with people in general.
But the phrase “good communication” is thrown around so often its meaning has become nebulous. Ask anyone off the street what you need to make a relationship work and they’ll tell you “good communication” 9 out 10 times. If everyone knows this, then why is frequent arguing one of the top reasons for divorce?4
The reason is, while people understand that communication is necessary and mature, they don’t know how to do it.
Effective communication is getting to the heart of what your significant other is expressing and also being able to ask for what you need. It’s more than simply talking about a topic or trying to force someone to see your point of view.
Here are some signs you need to work on your communication:
- You don’t make eye contact
- You are constantly interrupting the other person
- Your body language is sending a different message than you are verbalizing
- You are hyper-emotional
- You make assumptions about the other person’s motives
Good communication involves active listening, validating the thoughts or feelings of your significant other, and owning your emotions vs making accusations. Like most other things, how you communicate is a learned trait. If you shut down or blow up at any sign of discomfort a relationship expert and couples therapy can help you unlearn that behavior.
5. Learn how to defuse the situation
Maturity in a relationship helps you anticipate if something’s going to cause an argument and reroute the action or emotion. If you want to stop arguing you have to recognize when the situation is becoming tense and learn to defuse it before it gets there.
Here are some tactics to defuse arguments and stop fighting:
- Taking a timeout and revisiting the topic later can help if your normal response to arguing is to lose your temper or become too emotional to speak rationally.
- Research shows that the older a couple gets, the more likely they are to use humor as a conflict resolution tool.5 Humor, when used effectively, helps you see the other person’s point of view in a low-intensity way while also working as effective problem-solving. Of course, all situations won’t call for humor but if you can do it, use it.
- Asking your partner if you can start over from the beginning can take the heat out of a budding argument. It works because when you start to become angry and your breath starts shortening and your heart starts pounding you might say something that you don’t mean. Starting over from the beginning forces you to take a breath, measure your words, and communicate more effectively.
- No matter what you do, sometimes your partner will be in a bad mood and pick a fight. Saying, I’m not going to argue with you shuts down the possibility of going there. You can follow up by asking if they need to talk about something to get to the heart of the real problem.
Learning to communicate better and create a better relationship takes time and conquering your ego. Over the course of a long relationship you may find yourself needing to return to these principles, in that case, do this to stop arguing:
- Stop trying to be right
- Set boundaries for who you want to be in your relationship
- Avoid frustration arguments
- Communicate the right way
- Defuse the situation before it gets heated
This article on how to stop arguing in a relationship is a part of a series. Check out the others here:
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Mayo Clinic Staff _Mayo Clinic. Anger management: Your questions answered _March 5, 2020 (accessed Nov 2021) ↩
Liu, Y. Z., Wang, Y. X., & Jiang, C. L. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 316. 2017. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316 (accessed Nov.2021) ↩
Stillman, Jessica. Inc 1 Simple question that instantly defuses arguments with your significant other according to Yale research April 2019. (accessed Nov. 2021) ↩
_Wilkinson and Finkbeiner Family Law Attorneys. _Divorce Statistics: Over 115 Studies, Facts And Rates For 2020. Copyright 2021. https://www.wf-lawyers.com/divorce-statistics-and-facts/ (accessed Dec. 17, 2021) ↩
Greenberg, Barbara Ph. D. Psychology Today 5 Creative Ways to Defuse an Argument Feb. 2019. (accessed Nov. 2021) ↩