Heart of the Matter: Healthy arguments

I am not sure anyone really likes to argue with their partner (or anyone, really, for that matter), but sometimes we do things that can be upsetting, annoying, disappointing or triggering to the people in our lives, and we have to somehow survive the argument that can come out of it.

One thing I like to preach is not to avoid having arguments. So long as it is not abusive, having productive discussions with tension can be quite healthy for your relationship.

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The key to having a successful argument is becoming really good at repair. In fact, strengthening your repair skills will strengthen your relationship all around.

Sometimes, when people are trying to have a repair conversation, and one or both people are not ready, empathy can take a backseat and set you both back even further from repair. Cultivating the skills to move into repair takes time, patience and lots of mistakes. You will not always do it perfectly and neither will your partner, and that is great (more time to practice!).

Remember that time you forgot to pick up milk on the way home? Or when you did not say thank you, or maybe even snapped at your partner when they were trying to help you with something? Yes, me too. Ever been on the other end of any of those things? Me too.

What is not helpful in these situations is using words such as “overreacting,” “you,” “should,” or any other minimizing, negating, deflecting, blaming, shaming words or reactions.

Laughing off your partner’s feelings as an overreaction, or as being silly, can have a big impact on their trust in you and their want to connect with you outside of arguments or repair conversations. It can even become a bigger, more existential argument about the entire state of your relationship.

It is amazing how easily we can forget two of the most important parts of repair when simple everyday upsets come up: empathy and connection.

Even when you think your honey might be a tad too emotional, it is a brilliant move to try connecting with the feeling they are having. Do your best to let go of any judgment that the feeling they are having is silly, or that they are wrong or that you did a bad thing. I know, it is easier said than done sometimes.

So, when something comes up, go ahead and speak to it. Ask for a repair and keep connecting to the feeling that your partner is expressing without trying to explain or defend yourself. You can have a turn sharing your feelings once your partner feels fully heard.

This level of communication will likely inspire conversation, strengthen trust and create a sense of safety, as well as deepen intimacy. What a gift to offer your relationship.

Niseema Emery is a certified intimacy and relationship coach in Powell River.

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak


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