Couples enter into small and large arguments all the time. However, if you find the conflicts you have with your partner never seem to be resolved, the first step is for you to start paying more attention to your own conflict style.
Conflict and confrontation can feel overwhelming and anxiety provoking. The first thing to realise is that you are not the only one who argues with your significant other. The fact that you disagree is perfectly normal. Actually, if you were in a relationship in which you didn’t disagree, debate or possess painful feelings you would most likely be in a relationship, without passion, growth and integrity.
In order to have a, lets call it ‘healthier’, way of arguing, is to understand how you argue both individually and as a couple. Learning your individual style is the first step in order to change the cycle of conflict and ultimately build that ‘healthier’ way to argue.
Your conflict style is believed to have commenced in your early, developmental years and we possess a primary. That does not mean they are stagnant, they can be mixed and matched. This is mainly depending on the issue at hand, your partner’s style and how you are feeling,
So, what is your conflict style?
The Pacifist / Appeaser
Become fearful that the relationship will end so try to rectify. In arguments they may apologise when they are not in the wrong, be emotionally clingy with their partner, desperate to be ‘perfect’ for their partner.
Can be reactive and direct in conflict making personal remarks. They repeat out the same old litany of past grievances. They can be verbally, and sometimes physically abusive.
Low level attack
They play it safe and clever in conflict so as to self protect. Can also be emotionally manipulative. Can be nagging or whiney in arguments and use silence as a punishment.
Thinks the partner is attacking without any evidence. Up the ante the minute things become difficult so arguments escalate quickly.
In this approach, they withdraw at the first sign that a conflict is coming. If pushed they may simply refuse to discuss the issue and retreat to a safe zone, leaving the room or even the house. They may refuse to admit there is a problem.
Being aware of your conflict style is great, but making changes can be difficult. So how do you learn to handle disagreements well?
Understanding what your argument style is, is relatively straightforward. However, learning why can be more tricky as it is normally a combination of how you were raised, anger management and attachment styles. These are deeply ingrained habits, but can be changed with effort and dedication.
It maybe a long process, this is something that a therapist could assist with. The biggest aspect of what I see in couples is that more often than not what they think they are arguing about is not what they are really arguing about at all.
The purpose of an argument is to express clearly how you feel about whatever is being disputed. Exploring what conflict is alongside gaining insight into your triggers and vulnerabilities. You can learn to disagree while simultaneously appreciating your partner’s opinion, learn ways to communicate effectively and learn triggers to what upsets each other. With the hope of ultimately arguing in a ‘healthier’ manner.
Aoife is a qualified Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist with more than 10 years experience working in mental health. Aoife’s work involves supporting people with a wide range of challenges, from recognised mental health conditions (addictions, eating disorders, psychosis), to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. However, Aoife’s specialty is in Psychosexual and Couples Therapy where she has worked treating clients both at 56 Dean Street (part of the NHS) and privately. You can find out more about Aoife's work on her website or get in touch via Twitter