The Art Of
Many people are scared of
arguing with their partners.
arguing is a necessary part of relationships:
it is useful to discuss disagreements and
show your partner the emotions that go with your
This page is about
how to argue properly.
It won't teach
you how to have the last word, but it hopes
to give you some ideas about how to argue
passionately so that both of you win in the
end by developing a stronger connection with
Arguments between lovers
If you both are strong and
passionate people, you will disagree at some
point. If you start disagreeing about things
that are really very important to both of
you, your discussions may get quite heated. Arguing can range from a
straight forward disagreement to a stand-up
shouting match. All of these confrontations
can be extremely useful in developing your
Benefits of arguing
Arguments are often
necessary for us to really get to know each
They help us to separate
emotionally in a good way from our partners
as we are confronted with how different they
seem from us at that point. Emotional
separateness between partners is important
because it allows you to function as separate individuals
(also see managing
Arguments are also often necessary to set
important limits or boundaries in a
It is simply not always
possible or desirable to get one's own way
in a relationship. An argument puts
emotional energy behind your partner's wish
for you to behave differently. It will help
you take note of what is important to your
partner and you can then decide whether you
want to comply with his or her wishes or not.
On the other hand, if you
feel your partner is not taking you
seriously, increasing the emotional
volume behind your statement may be
necessary to get heard.
In a relationship both partners need to have
their say for it to work long term.
Therefore, arguing may help to redress
power imbalances in a relationship and set
matters straight again.
Finally, arguing can clear the air when
things have been building up. It is a good
way of communicating the intensity of your
feelings and letting go of them in the
process. It is not good for relationships to
keep things in!
Ultimately, arguments will help to bring you
closer to your partner. You will really get
to know the other for the person he or she
is, rather then continue to live with your
fantasy about who you think he or she is.
This may not be an easy process and can
involve a lot of disillusionment and
emotional turmoil, but you can gain an
honest and deep relationship with your
Arguing can also be seen as a stage in the
development of a relationship. Everything
about the other seems perfect when we fall
in love. However, we don't really know the
other at that point and we fall in love
partly because of our illusion about how we
want the other to be.
After this honeymoon period at the start of
a relationship comes a long and difficult
phase in which we really get to know each
other. Arguing during this time is common
and in my opinion unavoidable.
Give it about five years or thereabouts to
settle down! Long term relationships don't
get built overnight. However, arguing may
always be a feature of your relationship. It
can be a good tool to keep things honest and
open between the two of you.
physically attack your partner!
It doesn't matter what sex
you are, or whether you are the physically
weaker one in a couple.
physically aggressive with your partner is
not acceptable under any circumstances.
You may feel all sorts of intense feelings,
but you are an adult who is fully
responsible for managing his or her own
emotions. If you feel like you are losing
control of yourself walk away from the
situation and give yourself some time and
space to cool off.
And of course people can also behave in a
very threatening way physically without ever
laying hands on somebody, so be aware of how
you're using your body in an argument and
don't threaten your partner physically.
Don't throw hard objects either.
does not grow out of fear.
Don't attack your partner
People can be very
aggressive and personally insulting with words.
Personal, verbal insults are neither acceptable
nor useful in an argument.
remember that your partner is (or was) a person you
He or she is not your enemy.
If you hadn't have loved him or her at some
point you wouldn't be having an argument
with them now.
Although you may be at odds with each other
during an argument, you and your partner are
still a team. By not saying anything
personally insulting you are safeguarding
the interests of both of you for the future,
rather than trying to win and score points
Furthermore, simply consider how much
apologizing you will have to do later for
trading personal insults during your
It's immature: do you really need to score
points that badly?
This bit may be quite hard
in an argument, but it will minimize
defensiveness all round. If you are telling
your partner what you are not happy with
always say "I feel ....", "I want ... from
When you state your case from
your perspective you are owning your side of
This creates a very different
process then when you say "You make me
feel... by doing....", "You are this, that and
the other". The latter often leads to
blaming or defensiveness and it is easy to
get into entrenched positions.
An argument is all about
stating what's what as you see it.
You need to
be willing to be open with your partner
about how you feel and what you're
thinking. One really great benefit of arguing
is that in the heat of the moment you may be
honest about things which you would
normally not be willing to say to your
partner. Therefore, arguments can help to
bring more closeness and honesty into your
There is no point trying to
hide or protect your partner from how you
are really feeling.
So in some way,
"brutal" honesty is what is often needed,
but without personal insults, attacks or
pushing responsibility for your feelings
onto your partner.
In short be honest,
but don't persecute your partner.
This follows on from the
above point on honesty. If you name things
as they are for you without beating round
the bush, the whole argument will be over
Stick to what is happening right
now between the two of you and state what you are
thinking and feeling clearly.
need some practice as strong feelings often
don't help one's articulation. Being direct
also means you don't keep on talking and
talking, but each of you gets a chance to
talk and state your case.
yourself "time out"
Arguments can involve very
intense feelings and use up a lot of energy.
Give yourself time to cool off, or to step
away and calm down for a bit.
It's OK to
have breaks from the process and to come
back to it once you are feeling a bit calmer
Some things can't get sorted
straight away and need more time. For some
people it is really hard to manage
interruptions in the continuity of the
relationship. If you are getting really
stressed when your partner wants to have
some time out, it may help to learn to
manage your own
anxiety better in the moment.
Arguments still progress in these breaks as
each partner has time to reflect and process
what has happened.
Even though you may feel no connection at
all to your partner during this break they
are still there. It's OK to be with yourself
for a while: the other person is still
around and hasn't packed his or her bags
At some point an argument
needs to stop again. Normally, this happens
when an issue has been resolved, or there
has been some change in one or both
Whenever it is OK for you, try
and let things go again. Maybe what has been
said is enough for now.
At that point,
check with yourself whether you are willing
to forgive your partner, or accept him or
her for who he or she is even if that's not
how you ideally would like them to be.
you find this difficult maybe there is still
something you need to say? On the other
hand, be aware of your own tendency to try
and win arguments or to try and have the
You can't both have the last
word each and every time; however, by
forgiving each other and letting things go
you can both win as a team.
How do you know your
arguments are positive rather than
I believe that during
a constructive argument something new
happens. You or your partner may express
yourselves differently, or you may try to react
differently. You may show yourself more, or
find out some new information about your
Useful arguments mean you learn
something new about yourself or your partner
- even if issues haven't been resolved.
Keep in mind that some issues cannot
be resolved, and that there may always be
tensions about differences between the two
I is really useful to think
and reflect on arguments once they are
finished. You could use the
or the concept of
symbiosis to reflect more on what has
happened between the two of you.
Consider what you've learned about yourself
through this process. Additionally, what
have you learned about your partner and your
relationship with him or her through this
What if you are always
repeating the same argument over and over?
This is when things
really stuck. Quite often couples will then
escalate the intensity of emotion to try and
move the process forward. Intense arguments
have a lot to do with our past relationships
- at least as much as
they have to do with our present
It may help you to read up on
script to understand what is happening.
You may both be replaying unresolved issues
that you bring from past relationships or
childhood. The more you learn about yourself
and your own reactions the better.
and reflect on yourself as much as you can
before you allocate responsibility or agency
to your partner. For example: "'I am
feeling scared, maybe because of my past
experiences, therefore, I get very nervous
when she wants to go out with her friends,
which I hate to admit to her, so I just get
angry instead and protest about her going."
This is much more useful then thinking "She
makes me angry because she likes to go out
with her friends." If you find this type of
self reflection difficult please consider
consulting a couples therapist or individual
therapy. Learning about yourself is an
important part of being a good partner and
Written by Anna