When my wife and I were first dating, we were close to pathetically agreeable on everything – where to eat, what movie to see, where to go on a weekend away. The bliss hit a speed bump around our 11th date when we had a major argument. And, while I don’t remember the exact cause of the disagreement, I do remember it leading to a nasty, heated exchange.
The issue was that neither one of us was good at arguing. Even star-crossed matches who find their bashert on the first date and are on the fast-track to standing under the chuppah will find themselves in a disagreement … or two. It took me a few years to learn the right way to argue. After our first squabble, we realized that being able to disagree, resolve our issues and then kiss and make up meant we were on the road to a healthy relationship.
As someone who becomes passive during an argument, learning about the rules of this part of the relationship road were important.
In your relationship, you’ll have to learn how to fight fair by staying on the subject, keeping things honest and civilized and trying to identify the real issue.
It’s amazing how quickly a disagreement can lead to the unbundling of other feelings not related to the topic at hand. Depending on how long or short your fuse is and the temper threshold of your partner, words can escalate into nasty territory. It’s crucial to remain civil and stay focused on the root of the agreement.
Listen To Each Other
Give the other person time and room to talk and express feelings. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak; really listen to your partner.
The number one issue that trips couples up in any argument is not listening to each other. At some point in such a confrontation, one person is almost certain to say, “You’re not listening to me.” It is natural to keep your own thoughts in order, but unless you are able to listen to (not just hear) the other person, there will not be an agreed-upon resolution.
Let It Be
Once things are worked out, agree not to harbor ill feelings or bring the topic up again.
After a conflict is revolved, both parties need to put the matter to rest and agree not to bring it up time after time. This is more than just a “forgive and forget” situation; a peaceful ending to an argument should be just that – an ending.
Recognize When Something’s Really Wrong
It will be difficult, but it’s important to understand that the argument could be a sign of something more seriously wrong in the relationship.
There are no rules or playbooks on how often a couple should argue. There may happy twosomes who thrive on arguing about everything from what color to paint the house to who to invite over for Shabbos dinner. In reality, these folks are a rare commodity. If you and your match are seemingly always in disputes over minor things, this may be a sign of personal issues than run fairly deep.
Keep It Private
Don’t seek the advice of everyone you know; that will only make things more confusing.
The last thing you want to hear in the middle of an argument is, “My friends tell me you are wrong about …” or “My parents think that we shouldn’t be fighting over …” Disputes between couples should remain private territory and not subject to outsiders no matter how well meaning they may be. If you really need to confide in someone, choose one trusted friend, or consider whether couples’ therapy could help.
Some 35 years after our first argument, I have made some progress in learning the way to “fight fair” when in a dispute with my wife. I still have a long way to go, because as with any healthy relationship, love is a learning process.
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