The Keys To a Healthy Relationship: Key No. 5 – How To Stop Arguing

The Keys To a Healthy Relationship: Key No. 5 – How To Stop Arguing

by Dr Emma Gray - 26th November, 2018

dealing with arguments

In this article, the fifth in The Keys to a Health Relationship series, I will share 6 tips to help you and your partner stop arguing.

No one agrees all the time, in fact, if a couple does it is usually a sign that one partner is dominating the other and only that person is getting their needs met. Disagreements are necessary if relationships are to grow, deepen and adapt to changing demands, however, to be productive, certain ‘rules’ need to be observed, otherwise disagreements quickly disintegrate into shouting matches.

Here are the ‘rules’:

1. Agree a mutually convenient time to talk

It is not always a good time to talk. If one of you is tired, distracted, busy or just not in the mood, any type of discussion is likely to deteriorate into an argument, even ones that start out as uncontroversial chats. So, if there is something bothering you, agree a good time to go through it e.g. ‘I have been feeling a bit wound up about something and I would really like to talk it through with you, when would be a good time to do this?’. If the answer comes back as ‘right now’, delay, so that you both have enough time to prepare, discussions that are planned and prepared go better than ones that are started impulsively and driven by emotions.

2. Don’t have a conversation if you are too emotional

It is very hard to talk about things that are important without getting emotional. However, feeling anything too strongly makes it hard to think clearly and thinking clearly is essential if a discussion is to be productive. So, agree before you start that if either of you begins to feel too angry, upset or anxious, or if you notice that in each other, you will take a time out and return to the discussion at another time. It is worth agreeing a ‘safe’ word or phrase that you use if you notice yours or your partner’s emotional temperature rising past a useful point. Time outs should last at least 1 hour and should be spent well away from each other to stop an argument being sparked.

3. Stay on topic

When you are talking about something that triggers strong emotions, it is difficult to stay on point and not be distracted by other perceived injustices and past unresolved issues. However, it is only possible to deal effectively with one thing at a time. So, to help you stay on point write a few key notes as a reminder to stick to them. If something else comes up you should agree another time to discuss it.

4. Take it in turn to speak

This is hard to do, but is vital if your discussion is not going to disintegrate into an argument. With strong emotions comes an urgency to express them. To make it easier to wait your turn have a pen and paper handy and jot down any burning comments, this will help you to contain them until it is your turn to speak.

5. Don’t try and resolve it all in one go

Measure your expectations about how much can be achieved in one ‘sit down’ and as soon as you notice that the discussion is going around in circles, take a break and come back to things later. Circular discussions tends to whip up emotions and the higher your emotional temperature, the more likely it is that things will boil over.

6. Record your conversation to make sure you are both sticking to the rules

Finally, record your conversations with your partner. This should not be used as a weapon to point out your partners mistakes and mishandlings but for you to notice how you handled things and how you could do things differently and maybe more effectively next time. You are also more likely to stay calm and in control if someone else (i.e. you in the future) is listening.

In the next article I am going to explain how damaging comparing your relationship with others can be.


If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our Relationship Counselling and Jealousy & Insecurity Pages helpful.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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