Disagreements are a part of life, and knowing how to negotiate is crucial for the health of your relationship. Instead of avoiding conflict, learn how to express yourself and stand your ground without being hurtful or disrespecting your partner.
1. Maintain Emotional Control
Any disagreement with your spouse or partner can be a nerve-wracking experience and can make you both very anxious. Things can escalate and get out of control very quickly — this is the reason why maintaining emotional control is not just simply important but may save your relationship. Here are some tips to reduce anxiety and keep things civilized:
- At all times try to talk things through before they become a major issue.
- Never raise your voice. When you begin to yell, it is very tempting for another person to mirror your behavior and you are in a shouting match before you know it. Once it starts, it is very difficult to stop. If your partner yells, reply in a calm manner.
- If things got out of control, suggest to take a short break to calm down and breathe so that you can resume your conversation later.
2. Don’t Interrupt Your Partner
Any argument with your spouse should be constructive: Your goal is to resolve the issue at hand and not just release your anger, making things worse in the process. For things to resolve positively, both sides need to be heard and understood. Unfortunately, we usually assume that we know what our partners are going to say and that their position is flawed, hence taking time to listen to them feels like a waste of time. This type of approach will get us nowhere. Allowing your partner to express his or her feelings will help release tension and will improve chances of successful resolution.
3. Be Respectful
It’s easy to get all too comfortable with your significant other, which may sometimes mean treating them with less respect and expecting them to let things slide. It is even more true when emotions run high and none of the partners is in a proper mood for constructing problem-solving. Avoid yelling, name-calling and other forms of intimidation.
4. Don’t Fear Conflict
One may imagine that by avoiding conflict, they make the relationship more stable. Unfortunately, things don’t always work this way. Oftentimes, the longer we avoid talking about things that bother us, the higher the likelihood that one day we explode in rage. Facing our problems early and before they become major issues is much more effective and less painful than allowing them to brew for a long time.
5. Don’t Bring Up the Past
Bringing up past mistakes during argument is a sure way to make your partner feel miserable and force them to resent you. As if the current issue wasn’t enough, you bring up the past to completely paralyze them and make them feel worthless. It’s like shooting from a cannon when a simple gun will do.
6. Stay with the Issue At Hand
This is similar to the point above: Attack one issue at a time and, if you are serious about resolving the issue successfully, avoid mentioning past mistakes. If you constantly bring up the past or other (current) issues, chances are that the argument will never get resolved. It will be covered by layers of other past and present issues that probably weren’t resolved for the same reason.
7. Don’t Generalize
Avoid using all-or-nothing words, such as “always” or “never”. This strategy is unproductive for several reasons:
- It devalues the other person and makes them feel worthless.
- Because “always” and “never” are very general, they include many other unrelated issues. This distorts focus and makes us go in circles without ever finding a solution.
8. Don’t Lash Out
As it was mentioned above, avoid waiting until things escalate; at all times, try to discuss things calmly before they become a major annoyance. Plan what to say and how to say it in advance — this way you are less likely to become too emotional and lash out at your partner.
9. Seek to Understand
Even if your partner did a huge mistake, they still want to be heard and understood. If they don’t feel you are willing to listen, you may win the argument but lose the relationship in the long term. Stay calm, take time to listen and show your partner that at the very least you are trying to understand.
10. Don’t Criticize
It might be difficult to stay away from criticizing your partner, especially when you believe they did a mistake. However, criticizing your partner will add more unnecessary tension and drag the argument longer without successful resolution. At all times, focus on the issue at hand and what needs to be done and said to resolve that.
11. Be Open About Your Needs and Feelings
Your partner can’t read your mind, and just like he or she wants to be heard and understood, you need to be able to communicate your own needs and feelings. Unless both partners can do that, the relationship won’t feel fulfilling enough and there always be something bothering you at the back of your mind. Communicating your needs and emotions helps your partner understand you better and can lead to feeling more connected. How you express your feelings is also very important. Dr. Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist and a book author, warns against using phrases such as “You make me feel”, which can come across as an accusation. Begin your sentence by “I feel” instead, she suggests in her post on Psychology Today.
12. Don’t Blame
Not only blaming promotes poor self-esteem and drags the argument longer than needed, it reduces intimacy. No matter how much your spouse loves you, it’s hard to feel close to someone who is pointing at you with their finger.
13. Don’t Mention Divorce or Breakup
Threatening divorce or breakup during arguments will almost certainly hurt your relationship and here is why:
- Divorce or breakup is the ultimate abandonment and simply mentioning it can make the other person insecure.
- Even if you said the D-word in the heat of the moment, the other person may take it seriously and, since you appear to be okay with the idea, begin to consider it.
14. Don’t Leave the Issue Unresolved
Leaving an issue unresolved is like leaving a fire burning. Unresolved feelings rarely go away on their own and may escalate to a bigger problem that is much harder to manage.
15. Don’t Keep Score
Many of us have a competitive streak that helps us become more successful in our careers or hobbies, but your spouse is one person you should never compete with. Competing with your partner is extremely unhealthy and detrimental for the relationship. Don’t keep a tally on who did what, how many times and how much it costed. Similarly, avoid making your partner feel like a loser even if he or she admits you are right. Focus on resolution and closer, more intimate relationship instead.
16. Don’t Use Children as Leverage
Your spouse and you are grown-up adults, and although your life is obviously far from perfect, at least you have some control over it. If there are victims in this war between you and your partner, that would be your children. Your children are one big reason why you should find a way to co-exist peacefully.
17. Never Fight In Front of Children
One of the most damaging things you can do to a young child is to fight in front of her. Children feel like they have little control over their environment; and when their parents fight, they are easily overwhelmed — it’s like their whole world is crashing down. In addition, they have a tendency to believe they are somehow responsible for their parents’ disagreements, which may lead to an unhealthy self-blaming cycle. Children who often witness their parents’ fights may have hard time to adjust in society and have trouble making friends, according to this study.
18. Don’t use degrading language
Similarly to yelling, name-calling and degrading language will make things only worse. First, it might be very tempting for the other person to reciprocate. Second, even if the issue is eventually resolved, the memory of you insulting your partner may still bother him or her, putting a strain on your relationship.
Relationships are all about compromise. Of course you shouldn’t compromise your own boundaries, but finding the fine line to walk together is the goal. Stay flexible, listen to the needs of your partner and communicate your own. Try to find a solution that satisfies you both.
20. Don’t Withdraw
Although not as offensive as yelling and name-calling, withdrawing and not willing to discuss things can be just as damaging. However, sometimes people withdraw because they are overwhelmed with emotions or are unsure they can behave rationally and control themselves. If this is the case, simply ask for a little break so that you can talk later when you will be in a better state.
21. Don’t Go in Circles
Circular arguments are “always” and “never” type of arguments that stay unresolved because one of the two partners believes that that’s who or she is, such as always messy or never on time. Unless your partner believes that he or she can change, raising the issue over and over again is pointless. So do you just put up with your partner’s bad behavior? Well, it is up to you. Of course you can speak out about what’s bothering you but try to keep your discussions focused and short. The rest is up to your partner.
22. Avoid Fighting When Tired
Lack of sleep and tiredness can affect our self-control; fighting when tired may cause us say or do things we normally wouldn’t. The same goes for fighting when hungry — people tend to feel more irritated with their partners when hungry, according to this study.
23. Don’t Assume Things
Many a time we assume we know what our partners are going to say, but sometimes things your partner has to say may surprise you. Don’t think you can read his or her mind and be willing to listen.
24. Speak and Listen
It is important that you keep a good balanced conversation where both you and your partner speak about fifty percent of the time.
25. Keep Your Fights to Yourself
Don’t allow other people to get involved in your fights. Similarly don’t discuss your marital problems with family members or friends if you fear that they might get involved without your permission.
26. Don’t Use Physical Force
This goes without saying: Don’t use violence.
27. Plan Ahead
Planning is the key to success, and when it comes to negotiating with your spouse, it is true as well. If you feel like an issue is brewing, plan ahead what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. This helps avoid saying hurtful things and ensures you express yourself fully.
28. Be Happy Instead of Being Right
A lot of times people get caught up in their problems and forget the wonderful thing they have together for the sake of winning an argument or being right. The real goal is to find a successful resolution and become even closer than before; finding out who is right and who is wrong is not the goal.
29. Use Humor to Break the Tension
Humor is a good way to break the tension and helps you both to stop taking things so seriously. Of course not all people respond to humor and if your partner is one of these people, trying to make him or her laugh may make things even worse.
30. Get Professional Help
You don’t have to wait until things escalate out of control to get professional help. Working with a licensed counselor can help you see things in a new light and may even help you get your negative feelings out without endangering your relationship. Even if your partner is the wrong one, you still can benefit from counseling and it’s not a condition that your partner participates unless he or she wants to. It is possible to speak to a licensed counselor online, using this website. Working with websites like this often gives you more choices — if you don’t like your counselor, you can request another one — and at a cheaper price.
Banner image source @daviles via Freepik