30 Dec 7 Rules For Turning An Argument Into An Opportunity For Relationship Growth

Relationships are challenging and all couples deal with differences at times. You may as well learn to handle your differences and issues in a way that helps your relationship grow, rather than tear it apart.

Relationships get stronger, healthier, and happier, when partners know how to handle differences (and the arguments that often follow), well.

Happy young relaxed couple in love laying down on the grass overhead

These 7 relationship rules are a great place to start:

Rule # 1: Don’t attempt to address an issue until you’re both ready.

Sounds obvious, but couples often make this mistake.

Don’t be getting ready for work, cooking dinner, or performing other tasks. Don’t be tired, sick, drunk, or hungry. Don’t be distracted.

If an issue is important enough to be “an issue”, set a place and time where you are both able to focus on each other and truly concentrate on what’s being said.

Rule # 2: Don’t start the conversation in a negative way.
Marriage research tells us that when couples start discussing their issue with a complaint, a criticism, or in a harsh manner, the discussion is already destined to fail. Use language that’s not inflammatory, a soft tone, and preface what you plan to say within a positive framework.

Rule # 3: Stay in an “adult” frame of mind.
You are an adult. Relationships are adult things. Think of the issue as a challenge for you both to share and resolve in an adult way. Don’t be invested in defending your own position or getting a “win”. Be collaborative. Be prepared to compromise, and be prepared to lose (that’s both of you)! In a healthy relationship, the ledger will balance itself out over time.

Rule # 4: Don’t interrupt each other.
That’s right: don’t interrupt each other. And don’t use critical language, don’t be defensive or blaming, don’t speak down to your partner, don’t shout or swear… And if you can’t manage this, go to Rule # 5.

Rule # 5: Know when you need time out.
Emotional flooding is a normal physiological response to stressful situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s helpful when it comes to relationship health. If you notice that your voice has changed pitch, you breathing is rapid and shallow, your body is trembling, you’re having trouble maintaining eye contact or sitting still, or you’re retreating “inside” of yourself and no longer present, it’s time to call “time out”.

Rule # 6: Paraphrase and “feed back” what you hear your partner saying.
A good conversation is one where there’s a constant “back and forth” between participants. If you don’t fully understand what you’re hearing, ask for clarification. Likewise, make sure your partner understandings what you’re saying, by requesting that she/he feed back to you.

Rule # 7: Don’t be stubborn.
Sometimes finding a resolution to a realtionship issue is difficult or impossible. If compromise (on one or both sides) doesn’t help solve the issue, it’s OK to “agree to disagree”. Couples don’t have to see things the same way in order to be happy. They just need to know how to express themselves, be heard, be collaborative, give (in order to receive), and “choose their battles” wisely.

Already doing all 7?
Well done! You’re well on the way to building a relationship that handles differences and issues really well, and your arguments are opportunities to deepen your relationship even further. If you’re not, follow the tips above to start turning your relationship around.

Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For 25 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.