07 Feb How To Be Angry… (AND Loving)… When You Argue
All couples argue. So we may as well learn how to do it well.
Many of the couples I see in practice don’t know how to argue well.
So it makes me wonder how the rest of you are doing it.
Arguing well means arguing in ways that nurture and strengthen your relationship rather than kick it when it’s down.
Yes, it’s possible!
Is it only the couples who end up in a marriage therapist’s office who argue badly?
Or are lots of other couples also making big mistakes?
Here are 3 common mistakes that couples make when they argue:
1. Thinking and speaking in “all or nothing” terms
Polarised language feels more powerful, packs more punch, than moderate language. Saying that your partner never helps with the housework or always speaks to your mother rudely is so much more dramatic than saying that he sometimes doesn’t help with the housework or sometimes speaks to your mother rudely.
But using words like “always” and “never” means that you’ll be arguing about stuff that isn’t necessarily true. And your partner will find it harder to come on board. You’ll be using up valuable time and emotional energy while your partner defends him or herself from your “all or nothing” allegations. You’ll then be having an argument within an argument. Which is lunacy.
Don’t speak in “all or nothing” terms. Speak in fair terms. You’ll find it helps your argument (and your relationship) stay on track.
2. Using language that’s toxic
Being irritated, angry or even furious with your partner doesn’t give you licence to be mean or rude. Expressing anger by using toxic language and name-calling is something kids do. Using respectful language that clearly communicates your feelings whilst also remaining civil is something adults do (or should do). Toxic language has no place in a healthy adult relationship, no matter how angry you are.
Don’t be rude, mean, or disrespectful. Express your anger by being honest but kind. You’ll find it helps your argument (and your relationship) stay safe, even during tough times.
3. Making decisions or threats in the heat of the moment
“OK fine! That’s it. I’m moving out tomorrow! I want a divorce!”
Big relationship decisions should never be made when emotions are running high. Being emotionally flooded is normal when we’re really mad, but having the awareness to recognise when this happens, and the self-discipline to pause an argument until you are both calm, is crucial. Otherwise you’ll say and do stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise do… leaving more stuff to resolve.
Don’t make “heat of the moment” decisions. Learn the difference between being swept up in strong emotions and and being capable of rational thought that’s required for important decisions. You’ll find it helps keep your arguments (and you relationship) much more stable and calm.
It is totally possible to be angry whilst also being totally loving.
It’s a relationship skill that all couples need to master.
Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For over 20 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.