I avoid arguments in my relationships because I hate conflict. I also despise feeling weak or vulnerable. I’m not keen on expressing pain, anger, or disappointment either. It’s one of the reasons I write in this blog. I write to expunge my feelings. Then I convince myself I don’t need to talk about them.
I spent the first forty years of my life believing strong people could push past their feelings. Then chastised myself for not being one of those people.
I now know that weakness does not come from feeling these emotions. The weakness comes from pretending that I don’t feel them in the first place. It comes when I hide my pain because I fear the repercussions of sharing it.
I still struggle to talk about my emotions. It’s difficult to say, “I’m hurt. I’m sad. I’m disappointed.” It’s challenging to speak up for fear of an argument, but strength does not come from silence.
If I want my husband to recognize my concerns, I have to speak up even if it’s tough to do so.
Is Arguing Healthy in a Relationship?
At the beginning of our relationship, I rarely voiced my opinion because I was young, naive, and insecure. My husband may have composed a list of grievances, but I kept my thoughts about him to myself and chose to avoid conflict whenever possible.
Back then, I didn’t have the guts to speak up. I thought people in healthy relationships didn’t argue, non-fighting couples were normal, and young couples shouldn’t fight. If we fought, our connection was unstable, and fighting was a sign of our bad relationship.
I bit my tongue for fear that we would break up. Later, for fear that our marriage would end. The anxiety of divorce silenced me.
Some Say People in Healthy Relationships Don’t Argue
I thought arguing in a relationship wasn’t healthy, but I was wrong. Oh, so wrong! Arguments are normal in relationships, and if we never argue, more complicated marital problems arise. My silence was much more unhealthy than arguing.
Some say people in healthy relationships don’t argue, but that’s not true.
Relationship Without Arguments or Fights
My parents rarely argued when I was a child. When they did, the argument always involved some drama with my grandmother.
I loved my grandmother, but she could be a complex woman. She shared her opinions and ideas, no matter how they affected the people around her.
My grandmother’s name echoed in the air when my parents fought, and my dad’s loud voice sent it bouncing down the small hallway to my bedroom.
My parents didn’t fight often. Maybe they fought when I wasn’t around or after I fell asleep at night. Either way, (other than a handful of arguments), their relationship seemed happy and healthy.
Arguments in Relationships
So whenever my husband and I experienced big blow-ups, I felt ashamed of our arguments. Those fights were nothing like the happily-ever-after stories I dreamed about when I was a child.
We fought and still fight, about extended family members, like my parents used to do when I was a child. We argue about nosy relatives who cause drama and like to voice their unwanted opinions, but we fight about other things too.
My husband would huff upstairs after a fight, pull the covers over himself, and begin snoring at the beginning of our marriage. His snoring drove me batty. My parents taught me never to go to sleep angry, but my husband didn’t adhere to that same lesson. His parents can go days without talking to one another.
I could never understand how he fell asleep after an argument. As I listened to his heavy breathing, I tossed and turned for hours.
“Would we get divorced? Should we get divorced?” I wondered as I rewound the argument like an old VHS tape. What did he say? What did I say? Why couldn’t we resolve the fight? Why did we rehash the same issues over and over?
I’m typically a calm, rational, patient human being, but I can hear my voice getting louder after fifteen years of marriage.
Raising my voice isn’t the norm for me, and whenever it happens, I’m surprised by its sound.
Talking louder might make me feel better for a moment or two, but it doesn’t help much after that, so I stop. I know a louder volume never helps the situation, but sometimes I feel the need to release the tension before resolving the conflict.
For the record, I never begin an argument by screaming or shouting. I raise my voice mid-way through a disagreement. I get louder in response to feeling dismissed or ignored.
Thankfully, my fury extinguishes quickly, and we don’t argue often. After raising my voice for just a moment, I settle back down calmly and rationally.
Of course, raising my voice won’t resolve my problems. My husband shuts down when I get loud, and I can’t express my thoughts or opinions.
You may think I’m awful for raising my voice, I do too. So I search for productive ways to handle our disagreements and focus on a healthy way to work through our disparities.
How to Have Healthy Arguments
Whether I like it or not, it’s tough to avoid arguments and disagreements. When we were newlyweds, I kept my opinions and beliefs to myself, but keeping everything bottled inside didn’t strengthen our marriage. Over time I harbored resentment and bitterness. A relationship without arguments isn’t healthy.
It’s natural for two individuals to hold opposing points of view and sometimes fight about those differences. We cannot avoid all disagreements, but we can make those arguments much less stressful and more productive.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few ways to disagree productively. Our conflict resolution is still a work in progress. Though, these techniques have resulted in shorter arguments and quicker resolutions.
1. Speak Up
I don’t want to yell or cuss, but I wish to voice my opinion and feel heard when I feel hurt. By holding in my thoughts, I only hurt myself. If we never argue I won’t purge my anger or look for ways to resolve my pain. Instead, I will bury my emotions and allow bitterness to fester.
Speaking up is the first step in resolving issues. Before talking with my husband, I try to calm myself and think about what I want to say and how I want to relay the information.
I want to begin the conversation in a non-aggressive way. If I attack him, we won’t resolve the situation.
2. State What You Want Rather Than Using Accusations
For example, rather than saying, “You never help me with the laundry.” I can ask, “Can you help me do the laundry this week?” The first statement sounds like criticism, while the other is a request for help.
Rather than saying, “You always spend time helping your parents.” I’ll say, “I want us to spend some time together.”
Talking this way allows for an open discussion. If I start with accusations, he’ll feel personally attacked. Using these statements doesn’t mean I always get what I want, but overall, I get better results.
If you do most of the housework, don’t say, “I’m always doing the dishes, laundry, and cleaning the house.” Instead, say, “Can you help me with the dishes or help me clean the house?”
It’s better to ask for help than sound like an angry martyr.
3. Set a Goal for Your Discussion
Before we talk, I try to imagine the goal for our discussion. What exactly do I want to achieve? Am I looking for my partner to apologize for something he said or did? Do I want him to do something to help me? Actions and apologies are very different things.
Sometimes I’m not looking for a resolution at all. I just want him to know that I am upset. I don’t want to pretend that things are perfect when I’m unhappy.
4. Figure Out Why You Are Arguing
Life can be difficult and draining. Sometimes I’m simply in a bad mood and feel more agitated by my husband’s actions than others. Some days I’m mad about the traffic, the kid’s homework, and the list of housework in need of completion.
Spouses and partners can be a target for that anger. Rather than taking it out on my husband, I try to calm myself and ask why I’m annoyed. Am I upset with him or irritated by my surroundings?
Can he help me with the long list of chores? Can I ask him to watch the kids for a while? In other words, can I break the negative feelings before they swell into an unnecessary argument?
Can I ask for help or say I’m feeling tired?
5. Cool Down
Sometimes I need to leave the room and walk away for a few minutes while fighting. I don’t need a few hours or days to mill over our conversation, but I do need a few minutes to calm down from it.
I’ll take a brief walk, go for a long run, wash the dishes, or start organizing the kids’ toys. Yes, for some reason, cleaning the house is a great way for me to get out my aggression.
When I feel upset, it helps to walk away before saying something I regret. It also gives me time to reflect on what we talked about and allows me to think about what I want to say without being too hasty or judgmental.
Walking away gives you the time and space to calm your nerves and reflect back on your thoughts.
6. Put Yourself In Your Partner’s Shoes
My mom taught me to put myself in someone else’s shoes whenever I disagree with them. So before I respond, I try my best to listen to my husband and put myself in his place.
How would I feel if I were him? Would I have reacted similarly to the same action or event?
I try to talk to him about this and show him that I understand his perspective, but that doesn’t invalidate my feelings. We must balance our feelings alongside our partner’s feelings.
Sometimes one partner needs extra help speaking up or seeing the world from a different perspective. A clinical psychologist or relationship therapist can guide you. Seeking relationship advice from a third party can lead to more effective conflict resolution and increased relationship satisfaction.
Relationship experts can teach you the right way to ask questions, so you are less likely to feel so angry in the first place. They can also teach you to become better aware of body language and eye contact during heated discussions.
As I age, I try to pause more during our arguments. It’s natural to become defensive and begin to dispute facts the moment after they’re uttered. Now I take a moment or two to think about what my husband said. Rather than racing to defend my position, I pause and reflect on his words.
Sometimes I call timeout and use that time to churn the idea around in my mind. A few moments of silence can help me think through an issue without responding in anger.
I am more honest with him when I take the time to think about the wide range of emotions I feel. Over time it’s gotten easier to talk about feeling hurt or disappointed rather than resorting to feeling angry.
My husband has a knack for flipping an argument on its head. He can shift a topic and place unwarranted blame. I wasn’t aware of this technique at the beginning of our relationship, but now I am.
Pausing allows me to refocus and redirect the discussion. We can undoubtedly discuss my partner’s thoughts and concerns, but we don’t need to twist the conversation. That conversation can continue after we’ve completed the first one.
8. Assume the Best In Your Partner
After years of living with a partner, it’s easy to think the worst of them, so I try to clear that clutter from my mind and assume the best instead. I recognize that my partner is probably not doing something vengeful, spiteful, or selfish.
I try to think of the person I first fell in love with and remember that we are in a partnership together. After all, I must have chosen this person for a few good reasons.
Most of us are not out to harm one another. Sometimes we need to work through our differences and discuss our needs together, and in doing so, we pull ourselves closer together.
A Relationship Without Arguments
Despite knowing my husband for more than half of my life, I’m still amazed by how much I learn about him as we argue. As a result of our heated debates, I learn about the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that drive him.
I begin to see how his desires and dreams don’t always align with my own. And while I don’t like everything I hear during an argument, I understand his actions and concerns.
I still don’t like arguing, but I don’t shy away from it anymore. I view our arguments in a much healthier light, and I realize how unhealthy it was not to have disagreements earlier in our relationship.
If we can talk through these matters, we still care enough to try to fix them. I’d be much more worried if we stopped talking because silence means we’ve given up on making things better. Married couples fight, the question is how can we do so productively?
Fighting and Arguing in a Relationship
We might not be perfect, and we might argue, but we’ve gotten so much better at expressing our concerns and hearing one another. A relationship without arguments is impossible, but heated disagreements aren’t necessary either.
Looking back on our relationship, I regret not speaking up sooner. Some of our most significant disagreements have ultimately strengthened our marriage.
I don’t expect we will ever get to a point where we never argue or never disagree with one another, but these techniques shorten our arguments, so no one has to go to bed angry.