An overlooked relationship fact is that happily married couples argue. Itís healthy to have different ideas and to negotiate your way to communal bliss. Itís possible to have a uniquely compatible relationship between equally compliant personalities, but itís rare. If you have one of these easy marriages, rejoice and give thanks. If you donít, you might want to read a little bit about relationship arguments to keep yours from becoming destructive to your marriage.
When I was a little girl, I once was covered my ears and asked my parents to ďplease stop fighting!Ē They looked at me, surprised, and said, ďWeíre not fighting. Weíre having a discussion.Ē Well, it was a particularly loud and angry discussion so I was quite confused about the difference between a fight and a discussion. As a married woman, I now understand what they meant. There are not-so-clear but substantial distinctions between discussions, arguments, and fighting.
Discussion. A calm exchange of ideas. Respectful listening.
Heated discussion. Emotions get involved when one or both parties feel passionate about asserting their perspective. Less listening to the other side occurs.
Argument. Each party now becomes set on convincing the other to adopt his or her beliefs or thoughts. But that cannot happen because neither side is endeavoring to understand the other. Winning over the other is the only goal. Shouting to be heard is common.
Fighting. The original point of conflict is forgotten. The argument has become hurtful on a personal level. Now, it has turned into war. Name-calling, fault-finding, screaming. Old grudges and resentments are dredged up. Words hurled are non-conducive to solving the conflict.
How a discussion escalates
1. One person expresses an idea, thought, opinion, belief or preference.
2. The other person disagrees.
3. They take turns explaining their perspectives.
4. Each person listens to the other and thoughtfully considers what is said.
5. Each person presents thoughts in response. Either the new information has changed thoughts or not.
6. Typically, the discussion ends when one party adopts the other personís ideas, both sides come up with a third mutually satisfying option or agree to disagree.
1. Steps 1-5 above occur.
2. One or both parties experience strong emotional responses either for his/her own thoughts or against the otherís.
3. The ideas presented hit a psychological or emotional chord within one of both parties.
4. They recognize their own rising emotions and take a time-out to cool down.
5. The heated argument ends without being resolved or gets resolved when one person gives in. Compromises at this level tend not mutually satisfying.
1. The heated argument continues on without break.
2. Less listening to each other occurs.
3. They spend less time trying to understand the other party and more time on presenting his own ideas.
4. Both parties are set on convincing the other to adopt his or her side.
1. The original topic of discussion is abandoned.
2. Old wounds are reopened when one or both sides bring up past unresolved resentments.
3. Fighting words are not helpful in moving the argument toward a resolution.
4. Hurtful words and behavior cause more relationship damage.
Not all fighting ends marriages, especially when volatile personalities are accustomed to each otherís arguing patterns and can be forgiving. But each fight can leave new emotional injuries that make productive discussion less likely in the future. For tips on how to end an argument, please read my article "Five Ways to End an Argument.