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Arguing: Do it nicely

Every relationship is bound to have some conflict in it — some would say that’s even healthy.  The question is: how do you make the best of your arguments and avoid lasting damage to your relationship.

1. Take a time-out (aka check yourself before you wreck yourself) 

This is the oldest advice in the book, but it’s the best thing you can do in an argument: cool off, whether by counting to 10 in your head or politely excusing yourself to the bathroom and splashing water on your face.  The idea is that you want to act with your whole brain, not just with the raging emotions you feel.

2. Maintain respect – affirm your partner

Even while totally disagreeing, you can still respect your partner’s opinion.  If you’re in a place where you just can’t see their perspective, try remembering that they still have a right to their own perspective even if it makes no sense to you.  Communicate that as nicely as you can by saying something like, “I am on a totally different page from you, but I respect that you feel differently.”

3. Don’t be hard-headed: avoid black and white thinking

Do you find yourself thinking in terms of conflict and extremes?  Thoughts such as “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “You NEVER do such and such” are bound to be at least partly wrong.  Chances are, the truth is a little more subtle than these extreme thoughts. Try to remember that and balance out your extreme thoughts with a dose of reality.  Allow room for some “Well, maybe I’m a little wrong” or “Well, you sometimes do such and such, just not as much as I’d like”.

4. Keep the big picture in mind

If you’re arguing about who should do the dishes, ask yourself: is it worth breaking up over the dishes?  In most cases, the answer is NO.  So try this technique to bring you back to a more reasonable state of mind.  If it’s not worth breaking up over the dishes, be sure to not act like a total jerk about it!

5. Make the choice to make up

At some point, even if you don’t agree and still have major conflict… you have to make up (unless you’re going to break up!).  Don’t just make up gradually after a long angry silence — instead choose to be sweet and kind and love-y! Try to focus on how relieved you are that the argument wasn’t worse, or how much you appreciate having your partner in your life. If you’re mad about something big, focus on the little stuff to take away your anger.  Spend some time doing something fun together to distract you both, or if you are feeling affectionate enough, cuddle together.  It’s important to put time and effort into making up.

Do you have other suggestions for resolving an argument? Share them in our comments section!

-Beth Budwig is happily married to a man who cooks. When not eating, she builds web pages for Zoosk and goes hiking in the Oakland hills.

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