How To Stop Arguments With Your Partner Before They Start
You’ll hear me say it over and over again. Healthy relationships are healthy not due to the absence of conflict but because both parties in the relationship have mastered the art of resolving conflict. So why does it feel like the El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona in your relationship, every time you and your partner can’t agree on something? What are some of the things you can do to prevent disagreements from escalating? Here are some tips that work almost every time!
On your marks, get set… STOP!!!
In my article on how to stop your spouse from criticizing you I talked about the difference between criticism and a complaint. To eliminate conflict from disagreements you have with your spouse, you have to remove criticism from your conversations. For more on how to do this you can download this free audio series where I give you examples of how to modify your speech to sound less critical to your spouse. When you disagree with your partner, the way you start the conversation will determine what sort of compromise you can arrive at. Starting conversations with criticism will always cause your interactions to go downhill fast! If you start all your interactions with your partner with criticism, they will always get defensive, meaning they will also withdraw from you. This will eventually lead to emotional distance and loneliness. So you must learn to STOP, modify what you want to say from personal attack on your partner’s character to expressing how the situation makes YOU feel.
Are you Ronaldo, Ramos or Alonso?
So my husband is a huge soccer fan and one of his favorite teams is Real Madrid. I always find it amusing listening to him analyze their style of play, especially when they are losing. His favorite player on the team is Ronaldo and he tells me Ronaldo is one of the best attacking midfielders of all time. However, he also keeps complaining about a defender named Ramos who spends all his time out of position because he is always attacking. Being that I’m not an avid football fan (sorry guys!) I asked if there were any players who don’t attack or defend and he tells me there’s a midfield player he likes names Xabi Alonso. Ok so despite his explanations I still don’t care too much about football, but I do find this Alonso guy interesting. I realized that in football just like marriage, someone has to be the glue between the part of the team that wants to attack and the part of the team that wants to defend. It might not be the glory position but the team falls apart if that person is missing. In your relationship, that person has to be you!!!
But they think they are Ronaldo!!!
Ok so in an ideal world, everyone in a relationship gets this and wants to play the role of “mid-fielder”. But we all know reality is different. We all know that conflict will always occur because we all want to get our own way and when we don’t, we react negatively. But the beauty is you can actually eliminate a lot of your conflict even when you disagree on something and at least, one of you is willing to play the “mid-fleld” role. If you have a partner who uses an attack strategy to get their way when they bring up issue, don’t go head-to-head with them. Fall in line beside them instead. This can be done by ignoring their tone of voice (which is probably aggressive) and focusing on the content of their message. Ask your partner questions about their point of view and expressing willingness to look at the problem from a new perspective. Regardless of how you feel about an issue they raise, say things like:
“Tell me why this is so important to you.”
“I may not be looking at things the same way you do. Tell me how you would like to approach it?”
“What are you concerned about if we handle this issue differently from the way you suggest?”
(Click here to send me specific examples of things between you and your partner that you disagree on that cause conflict and I’ll respond with examples of how to modify your speech)
If your partner is always poised for a fight, if your partner is ready to get defensive every time you have a different opinion on an issue, responding without counter-attacking or taking a non-defensive stance, will disarm them. It changes the direction of the energy of the conversation by allowing the both of you to be on the same side of the problem. It is even more likely to lead to a compromise. Nobody loses when you approach things this way. This allows you to both have different points of view, but respect each other’s point of view all the same. Using this approach is not easy, but trust me, it’s effective!
So what’s the game plan coach?
No coach sends their team out into battle without a plan right? So here’s your game plan. Draft a list of the conflict you and your partner typically have. Think of ways you can initiate that conversation with your partner, without criticizing them. Think of ways you can let them know you respect their opinion on the issue, while making sure you let them know how you feel about the issue. No finger pointing! Make sure you remain polite, regardless of how they respond to you. Make sure you also show appreciation to them if you get the sense they are listening to you.
If things don’t go according to plan and they begin getting defensive, remember, your plan is to get on their side of the argument, so they believe it’s the both of you versus the problem. Use phrases like the ones I shared above to change the direction of the conversation.
Coach’s pre-game speech
Many people have trouble accepting their partner’s ideas, suggestions, or requests because they believe that doing so will cause them to lose power in the relationship. However, research shows the opposite. People who allow themselves to be influenced by their partners actually have more power in their relationships. That’s because people who feel empowered and respected in their relationships by their partners are more likely to go along with their partner’s ideas and suggestions as well.
In relationships you become more powerful by sharing your power with your spouse. You can teach your partner this important lesson, by choosing to play the “mid-field” role, when your partner wants to “attack” or “defend”. You can open your partner up to your influence by choosing to respond to them in a way that makes them feel you are on their side. Why not try something different on the next disagreement you both have?
ZeeZee is a certified Relationship and Marriage Coach who believes her purpose in life is to equip couples with the right tools for a successful relationship. Through her website and YouTube channel she shares practical tips and principles that help couples understand the inner workings of a healthy marriage.
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