Live in Love: Being a Better Arguer
A few days ago my husband was ecstatic when he brought home his new burnt orange Harley Davidson motorcycle. To celebrate, the plan was to take the scenic route to the river and find a place to have dinner. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed by the color. My emotions soon changed to perturbed when I notice it did not have a passenger back rest (aka sissy bar); and then changed again to perplexed when I noticed the seat tilted backwards at a thirty-five degree angle. I wondered how are the physics of this seat going to mix with my husband’s diving?
“Where is the rest of the seat?” I asked my husband. “That cost $400.” he said. I thought “You just spent thousands of dollars on this new bike and you cannot invest $400 in it for me to ride it comfortably?” (Apparently there was more to it, but being a male he failed to communicate that to me. As a female, I focused more on my upset emotions instead of trying to clarify this statement.) He told me I was just going to have to hold on to him tighter so that I would not fall off.
Being the passenger on this bike was no easy task! Imagine this with me. The seat is at a thirty-five degree angle and gravity is causing my body to lean into the great abyss. Yet I am supposed to lean forward, wrap my arms around husband, and hold on tight. With every bump my body bounced in the air, landing further back on the seat until I was hanging half off. It felt like I was holding an awkward yoga position, with no therapeutic benefits, and would most likely cause early onset of osteoporosis. Every chance I got I corrected my posture, but with more bumps I ended up in the same position.
After 45 minutes of this misery, I told my husband to pull over. I took a few minutes to stretch and told him I was done. I did not care about the dinner date; I wanted to go home. When we arrived home, he knew I was not happy and he tried to cheer me up. I really wanted to yell at him for putting me through this misery, but instead I said “Just give me a few minutes and I will get over it.”
After I calmed down we were able to discuss this issue. He informed me he did not want to spend $400 on something I did not like, and he would like for me to pick it out the passenger backrest since I would be the only one using it. He further explained he did not realize it would be that uncomfortable for me. I am glad I did not respond the way I originally wanted, as I would have been the jerk.
In my profession, I get the opportunity to see how couples interact and argue. From a third party stance I can observe that neither party means any harm to the other, but communication was lost in the presentation. Here are a few rules to follow to help you become better at arguing and resolve the issues to keep your relationship on a healthy track.
1) Quit trying to be the winner! In a relationship you are a team! If one teammate focuses on winning against the other teammate, then the whole team loses! At the end of a relationship have you ever heard someone say “At least I won all of those arguments?” No! Usually the person is crying and wondering what happened that caused the relationship to fail. Instead view the issue as an obstacle you both need to work through together, to help you both win as a team. It is both of you against the world, and you will be more productive working together instead of against each other.
2) Be goal-oriented. By defining what you would like to accomplish, this will keep you focused on the matter. Only bring up issues that are relevant to your goal. Concentrating on too many problems at once will only result in none of them being resolved.
3) Tame those Emotions! When emotions start to get out of control, logic is lost in the meantime. Not only will nothing get resolved, but it will exacerbate the problem and most likely add on several more problems you may find yourself having to apologize for. If you are finding it difficult to keep control of your emotions, take a time out and come back to the argument when you have calmed down.
4) Listen! In order to find common ground, you have to understand where your mate is coming from. Do not interrupt! There will be times, when you feel the need to have a rebuttal. Make a note of that issue and address it when it is your turn.
5) Be direct! As females we would love it if our prince charmings could read our minds or even understand what we are insinuating. (This also includes the women who act like something is wrong, but when he asks she says she’s fine.) But they can’t! Their male brains do not work like our female brains. Instead, we must be direct about our needs and wants. For instance, a statement such as “Honey, will you please take off your shoes before coming in the house when your shoes are muddy?” is so much more effective than “You’re so disrespectful to all the cleaning I do around the house!”
6) Don’t Accuse! You cannot read your mate’s mind either. What may look like something malicious may have a perfectly good explanation. Instead use “I feel” statements. No one can successfully argue with you on how you feel; you are entitled to your feelings. By focusing on your feelings, he then can explain his reasoning and behavior without being defensive.
Every couple has arguments and disagreements. Clinicians have concerns about the couples who claim they do not, as that would be abnormal and a dysfunctional relationship. Since arguments are a necessary evil in relationships, we can take note and learn how to argue better for the sake of living in love.