I often see couples in my office who start off the first session by stating a problem that has been going on for a long time. Each person then digs down further into their position and starts to try and convince the other as to how they are wrong. Ultimately both people in the relationship suffer once this happens. Here are 5 ways that will help you stop having the same argument over and over.
1. Recognize the pattern you are in.
I often help couples track their interactions between each other when they are arguing. It can be helpful to know that it is the pattern of interaction rather than your partner that needs changing. This concept allows partners start to peel back the layers and lay down their arms.
2. Soften the protective urges you have
Often during a verbal disagreement, our nervous system gets activated and we want to lash out at our partner with that energy. Common stories in your head might condemn this partner with things like “I can’t believe he is such an idiot.”, or “How can they not see my point?”. It is important to recognize these protective parts of yourself are normal and quite common in relationships. However, this line of thinking is what is keeping you entrenched in the pattern. Try to go within yourself and acknowledge these protective parts of yourself and ask them to soften a bit so that you can stay present. Externalizing these protective mechanisms works to calm your nervous system.
3. Explore your protective fears surrounding the argument
We often continue the argumentative patterns because we are afraid of what would happen if we did not. If we explore further, we can find out what’s underneath these fears. Ask yourself a few of these reflective questions.
· What would happen if I softened a bit and listened intentionally to my partner?
· What would happen if let down my guard?
· What would happen if I wasn’t right?
4. Acknowledge the hurt
Once you ask yourself these questions you may be surprised to hear that if you were to let down your guard, or if you were not right…that would mean something. That something is what I refer to as a trailhead. Just like the start of a trail, your frustration with your partner is the beginning of a path for you. Often it leads back to the feelings of hurt. Anger is often protecting pain. Only when we can acknowledge said pain and be there for it can we then start to shift the argumentative pattern with your partner.
5. Communicate effectively with your partner
When you have acknowledged the pain that you feel and can keep your nervous system regulated you can now work towards communicating effectively with your partner. Take the time to acknowledge what your partner is saying. Validate their concerns and continue to work with your protective mechanisms. When both individuals can feel heard and seen by one another it becomes a lot easier to problem solve together.
-Justin Martin | Therapist
If you would like to learn more about improving your relationship or working with me, you can find me here.