Arguments in a relationship are inevitable, but that doesn’t make them any more fun. Even more so when the reasons for arguing are always the same. It’s exasperating, isn’t it? Are you tired of arguing with your partner about the same things over and over?
The good news is that it is possible to reach an agreement about the recurring issue. It has to do with identifying the root of the problem. On the other hand, it may not be a specific issue, but rather a general discussion. In this case, the approach is different since there are usually other reasons, such as power struggles, going on.
“Although in a relationship communication is the most important element, arguments can be the most destructive element.”
– John Gray, in the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus–
Educational model based on relational discord
One of the main reasons many couples argue over and over again is because they learned it from their parents. They did not learn how to manage conflicts. In passing, they also learned to use strategies that keep the arguments going. One of these strategies is to recycle arguments. To repeat them but with different words, giving the feeling that there is always new information to contribute.
They imitate their parents. In reality, it often centers around proclaiming the superiority of one’s own position. The goal isn’t to understand each other’s perspectives in order to arrive at a compromise and restore harmony.
That is, many couples argue because they have assimilated a model based on relational discord. This model is contrary to the idea that it is possible to negotiate a conflict productively. At its core, there is a very clear message: arguments in relationships are irreconcilable.
It says that the only way to get out of it is to intimidate the other person more than they intimidate you. Thus, the argument will not end until both are so tired and distressed that they stop by pure exhaustion, often having forgotten why the argument began in the first place.
Figure out why you’re arguing
The solution is, first of all, to identify the framework holding up our arguments. Are we recycling the same arguments again and again? Do our discussions resemble those of our parents? Do we know why we really argue? And do we always guide our arguments towards the same demands and protests? Are we automatically reacting to certain situations, like a spring, and beginning to argue without further thought?
Now think about how healthy your parents’ relationship was. Did it end well? Were they happy as a couple? If you don’t want to end up like they did, start by getting used to managing arguments in a relationship differently.
It is possible to live without arguing with your partner all day. You really can make clashes end in an agreement and not a truce that only works until both sides recover, returning to the battle once energy levels are high again.
However, we must begin by acting as if that were possible. We’ll have to stop acting automatically and start reprogramming our reactions to triggers we must identify. In this sense, you must cultivate an attitude that most of the differences in your relationship are reconcilable.
“It’s not what we say that hurts, but how we say it.”
-John Gray, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus–
Self-protection when you feel vulnerable in an argument
Getting angry with the other person is a way we protect ourselves, especially when we feel attacked and vulnerable. It makes us counterattack and try to win battles so we don’t expose ourselves to danger.
Furthermore, too often we are dependent on the opinions of our partners. So when they question our competence, intelligence, or anything else, we feel our self-esteem dangerously compromised. In short, we feel vulnerable. That’s why we feel the need to defend ourselves, because that makes us feel safer.
Self-defense and self-validation
On the other hand, when we try to defend ourselves in this way, we normally end up attacking the other person’s weak spots. Blaming him for our problems and not measuring the damage we ourselves can cause with our words. What was once fear, now may feel like power and strength thanks to adrenaline. The result? A reinforcement of a toxic attitude.
When we’re at the edge of anger, we forget to listen to our partner. Remember that we are trying to “defend ourselves”. The solution is to learn to self-validate, to strengthen our own ego without hurting anyone, and seek our own path of growth, accepting ourselves unconditionally, weaknesses and all.
Often we argue about our own issues we see reflected in our partner. But if we are capable of accepting ourselves and being generous, compassionate, understanding and forgiving of ourselves, we will be able to treat our partner in the same way.
The solution also involves looking for a different perspective with empathy and understanding. Identifying the other person’s position, even if it is different from our own, will help moderate anger and help us maintain control.
“I remembered the thousands of odious things we had gone through and I let the solidarity regain force. What a waste it would be, I said to myself, to ruin our story by leaving too much space for ill feelings: ill feelings are inevitable, but the essential thing is to keep them in check.”
– Elena Ferrante, The Lost Child-
There are differences that are irreconcilable
When it comes to arguments in a relationship, some issues by nature or ideology simply cannot be resolved. We can adapt to or give into these unsolvable discrepancies, but that does not make them compatible.
Even though we know that differences exist, we irrationally end up feeling threatened by them. In fact, arguing with our partner for ideological or personal reasons is usually a form of self-affirmation. A way to rebel against the feeling of alienation they cause in us.
Regardless, the answer is to identify the problem areas and simply exclude them from the conversation. Try to appreciate and respect unalterable differences. Focus on the points where you can reach agreements, without feeling that your partner’s beliefs are a threat to your own.