“I love you, but I don’t have to like you right now”, is definitely a quote that comes up in relationships every now and then, as arguments inevitably come up… It’s whether we argue in a constructive way or throw tantrums that determines the route of the relationship. So the next time he leaves the toilet seat up, or she spends too much of the budget on shopping, remember these tips from psychotherapist Vikki Stark, director of the Sedona Counselling Center of Montreal, that will leave you holding hands in no time… or whatever else you like to do to make up 🙂
Don’t run from fights.
Couples in it for the long-haul don’t shy away from discussing topics that could just as easily be swept under the rug. They ask the big, scary questions ASAP — “When, if ever, are we going to have kids?” “What are we going to do if you get that job in another state? I don’t want to move to there!” — so they don’t become bigger isssues in the relationship later on, said Diane Sawaya Cloutier, an author and relationship expert.
“When taboo or uncomfortable topics remain unaddressed, they can turn any benign event into a big drama that could have been avoided in the first place,” she said. “Couples who talk about it can manage potential dramas.”
Start slow and take turns talking.
Arguments generally end the same way they began, said Bonnie Ray Kennan, amarriage and family therapist based in Southern California. Couples who’ve mastered the art of arguing fairly take things slow, addressing difficult conversations with a soft, reassuring tone and dialing it down whenever things get too emotionally charged.
“Starting a difficult conversation softly and respectfully dramatically increases the chances of a good outcome,” she said. “Conversely, a ‘harsh start-up’ is very hard to process well, especially for men.”
Couples who argue with finesse also know the value of give and take: “One person speaks and the other person truly listens,” Ray Kennan said.
Acknowledge each other’s feelings and points of view.
They may be bumping heads but couples in happy, long-time relationships try their best to see the other side of the argument, Kipp said.
“They may say, ‘I know you see it differently than me, but I appreciate that you are listening to my perspective,'” she said. “These positive moments decrease defensiveness and allow for a more productive conversation.”
They never forget that ultimately, they’re a team.
Even during their most tense arguments, healthy couples never forget that they’re a team: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… and until the argument exhausts them and both parties agree that they’d rather call a timeout and get a bite to eat.
“Couples in satisfying long-term relationships are able to remember that, no matter how angry they may be, life will continue after today,” said Stark. “Because of that, they don’t want to do lasting damage. Even in an emotional state, they are able to hang on to the long-term value of the couple. They’re a team, protecting their future together.”
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