Timing is crucial:Dev Mehta* and Reena Mehta* have been married for three years, and are parents to a six-month-old baby. Shares Reena, “I consciously chose to quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom but it made me little hateful towards my husband because I was left alone at home with the baby. I used to act out and I would call Dev when he was swamped with work and yell for no reason. Sometimes, he would return home hungry, I would choose that minute to argue. This affected our relationship.” The two took steps to solve the issue, and have allotted talk-time. “We discuss the problem with each another over breakfast and sort it out in a calm and rational manner, which gives us mind space to reach a conclusion.” While this may work for some, others should give their partner some time to cool off before they are ready to talk. Says Manjula MK, Chennai-based psychologist, “Don’t bring up arguments when your partner has a lot on his mind, and does not have the emotional bandwidth or time to focus and do justice to the argument. It will only make things worse. Either set aside time, or look for a moment when your partner is receptive to the idea of addressing issues.”
Control your emotions:While it is tempting to have a go at your partner and let out the steam, don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Advises Manjula MK, “Arguments are driven by negative emotions—anger, dissatisfaction, conflict, sadness, and betrayal.” Her advice is to focus on the reason behind the emotions rather than blow it up. “If you find that you’re unable to let go, and that rage and emotion are clouding your thought process, it is better to take time out and compose yourself before continuing the argument.”
Mind your words:An argument is never pleasant, and your partner and you are probably already hearing things that you don’t want to. Says Chennai-based relationship counsellor Maria D’ Mello, “Meanness, contempt, and sarcasm are absolutely unwarranted in an argument, as they can compound the problem instead of resolving it. They serve no purpose other than allowing you to feel like you have the upper hand.” She recommends keeping the conversation to the point, and also using words like ‘I feel’ or ‘I believe’ leading up to your opinions, so that your partner doesn’t feel like you’ve already made up your mind.
Let bygones be bygones:It’s imperative that quarrels address only the issue at hand. Chennai based Kareena Patel*, a 32-year-old freelance photographer says, “When my partner and I argue, we always sit and resolve matters without deviating from what’s bothering us, or dredging up old issues that have been put to rest. I don’t interrupt him or be dismissive of his viewpoint, and vice versa.”
Find a middle ground:Arguments aren’t about who’s right or wrong, it is only a difference in perspective. Says Manjula MK, “An argument shouldn’t be about one upmanship or winning. Instead, it should aim at finding a suitable resolution, enabling partners to sort out the differences, moving forward as a unit, and to make the relationship work. Most happy couples prefer to not lose sight, an choose to have a focussed, rational discussion instead.”
Benefits of constructive arguments:Constructive arguments boost honesty, trust, communication and since negative feelings are out in the open, and discussed. Says D’Mello, “You learn more about your partner, and they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, and problems. You learn to see things from your partner’s perspective, building empathy, and ultimately tend to feel closer to them.”
The other side:Keeping problems bottled up can be extremely toxic, as it leads to building feelings of resentment. If something is bothering you, it is best to address it in a logical way, and arrive at a solution. Also, if you don’t address an issue, it may become repetitive, and you won’t be able to nip it in the bud the minute it starts bothering you, and snowballs out of control. Says Manjula MK, “People bottle up things for two reasons–they’re being childish and sulking, or they don’t want their partner to see through the facade or persona they’ve created. Both situations are unhealthy, and can lead to feelings of bitterness in both parties, which could build up over time and create lasting chasms in the relationship!”