Do you and your partner repeatedly argue about issues, but not come to any resolution?
Do you engage in disconnecting behaviors such as stonewalling and yelling that don’t bring you any closer to a resolution?
Do you avoid further discomfort and get back together without bringing up your disagreements?
Do you fear having to give in or be the one to concede in a compromise?
Do you often find yourself the losing party in a compromise and bear your resentment quietly?
Then, this article about how to fight fair for a win-win resolution, is for you.
This is usually a diversionary strategy to avoid discussing the matter at hand.
Past wrongdoings might be used to hurt your partner, particularly if you feel you are ‘losing’ the current argument.
If you are ego-driven and on the defensive, or have nowhere else to go with your reasoning, you may resort to bringing up something they did in the past to attack them with.
This opens the door to even more attacks on character which is soul-eroding.
The things that we or our partners have done in the past can cast long shadows over our present and future relationship if we allow them.
They also indicate that there has been accumulated residual resentment over unresolved issues from the past.
One needs to change the game and learn new skills of negotiation and resolution to get better outcomes from disagreements.
So, take time to digest your own feelings and define the current issue as specifically as possible and focus on that before starting an argument.
Verbal abuse is any spoken, written, or gestured communication used to assert power and control.
Because it’s often used to deliberately humiliate or demean, it’s considered a form of emotional abuse.
It can take the form of communication that is direct and brutal, or it can be passive–aggressive and subtler in nature.
Your relationship involves verbal abuse if any of the following is happening during an argument —
Someone with a pattern of using verbal abuse may deny their own behaviours. They may claim they can’t control how they act when their emotions rise.
If these patterns of defensive behavior play up during conflict in your relationship, be aware that change is possible, but it may not be up to you.
Your partner needs to want to change, and practical steps are needed to put that change in motion.
This often means seeking out professional help and engaging in long-term therapy to explore childhood trauma and the impact of attachment style on the current relationship.
These are good ways to express how you feel. You should be able to express these in relationships that are deemed safe.
You can make those “I” statements even more effective by being conscious that there are 5 steps to the communication process to make it concise and specific.
Here’s how you accomplish those 5 steps.
Bonus step! Ask for something in the present moment to genuinely diffuse the tension between you and establish your love and respect for each other.
Such as: “Would you please give me a hug and reassure me that you will prioritize our agreed upon meetings? I want for things between us to flow smoothly”. This bonus step is the connection you are looking for during this difficult discussion.
Remember, you can only own your own feelings and that has its own built-in fail-safe honesty as no one else can discount your feelings. It’s a path forward and a healthy way of checking in to see if your partner has understood you accurately.
Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling.
You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset, building resentment towards you.
If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take time-out but agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.
Be positive in your request for a break, such as “I know we can work this out if you will give me a minute to breathe and think”.
Stonewalling your partner while going to others (friends and strangers) for a sympathetic ear is not a good idea as you may be listening to advice from people through their own personal filters and biases.
Sometimes arguments are perceived to be “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.
From the evolutionary perspective, raising your voice is prewired in the limbic system and amygdala of the brain as part of the survival instinct. It’s a basic way of trying to assert dominance and handle a perceived threat.
Yelling would be bad enough if everything yelled were completely true and rational.
But once the stress response is triggered, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions like decision making, starts to shut down and the emotion centres of the limbic system take over.
Instead of thinking critically, you’re driven by your raw, highly charged emotions.
Again, this is meant to protect you in a dangerous situation, but in an everyday argument between a couple, it makes it incredibly difficult to really process what the other person is saying in any objective way.
In essence, you stop being able to hear each other or come up with appropriate responses, and the hurt that comes with the yelling takes root as a deeper, more significant and lingering memory.
When caught up in a yelling match, try to intentionally lower your voice so your partner has to focus on your words. Your partner will likely mirror your response and a quieter tone is achieved for a more fruitful discussion.
Compromise in relationships is about meeting in the middle; exploring a spectrum of solutions between partners before agreeing on a happy solution and feeling good going forward.
Examples of compromise may range from where you decide to move, whether you want children, how you manage the household roles and responsibilities and how you manage finances.
The process of arriving at a joint resolution during a dispute takes skill and practice and is rooted in genuine respect for each other.
The result of frequent unhealthy compromise in favour of one partner (usually the dominant one in the relationship) is that you become accustomed to accommodating your partner’s desires, and in the process, lose track of what you really want.
It looks sacrificial in that it sets aside one’s own desires in order to achieve a perceived sense of harmony. In private, however, you harbour a growing resentment for the powerlessness of your situation.
As a couples therapist I have observed that couples who engage in a pattern of unhealthy one-sided compromises throughout their relationship eventually shift to the other extreme, possibly due to growing resentment, and their fights and disagreements become louder and more explosive in an effort to finally be heard and understood.
Compromising, which includes accommodating and sacrificing, may also lead to anxiety and depression.
The hallmarks of a healthy compromise are these:
Recognize that we are all individuals and some of us are wired to react faster and more strongly than others.
But when this individuality is given a safe space to breathe and express, we get exposed to growth — fuelling differing viewpoints.
This helps to shape and preserve our values, articulate our needs and desires and define our relationship.
If you can consciously keep that concept at the fore even when you disagree, it’s much easier to stay respectful and ensure that cross words do not ultimately ruin communication and the potential for resolution.
Before you decide to throw in the towel, consider couples counselling.
A relationship counsellor can help you make changes in the way you relate to each other and get your needs met with better communication and connection to help you move forward.