Let’s face it — unless you’re a cast member on the Real Housewives, most of us don’t enjoy arguments. They’re usually awkward, unpleasant and leave you feeling emotionally drained. But whether we like it or not, they’re a normal (and often necessary) part of being in a relationship. When handled correctly, disagreements can actually help you and your S.O get on the same page and lead to some serious growth in your relationship. But I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where an argument has gotten out of hand, leading to someone storming out or even worse, a breakup.
The thing is, there actually is a right way to argue with your partner. While getting your point across (in a calm and mature manner) is important, it’s as much about what you don’t say as what you do say. Here are 7 things you should avoid saying during an argument if you want to reach a positive outcome.
Do you know how many times things have actually been fine when someone has said “it’s fine” mid-argument? Zero, to be exact. While it may seem like a good way to de-escalate conflict and avoid having to explain the issue for the 15th time, it usually goes one of two ways. 1. The argument ends but you’ve bottled up your feelings and they come out in full force at the worst possible moment later or 2. it comes across as super passive aggressive and makes things worse. Instead, take a deep breath (or even a few minutes out) and explain what you’re upset about as calmly as possible.
Statements that begin with “You always” or “You never” are usually sweeping generalisations and they come across as quite accusatory. This immediately puts your beloved on the defensive, which is never a good thing in an argument. Psychologist and relationship expert Susan Heitler recommends swapping these phrases with “My concern is”, as this is far less condemning. For example, “My concern is that I’m going to end up cooking dinner every night”, rather than “You never cook dinner!”
3“That’s not what you said on March 5th, 2014!”
You can swap this one out with pretty much any date. The point is, many of us ladies have recall abilities (and let’s face it, stalking skills) that would put the FBI to shame. But that doesn’t mean you should use that against your man in the middle of an argument. Making these kinds of statements usually means you’re straying from the issue at hand, which is likely to make the argument way longer than it needs to be.
Nobody likes to be told to calm down during an argument — it makes them feel as though their feelings aren’t valid. “What you’re essentially saying is, ‘I can’t tolerate you feeling upset,’ says clinical psychologist and relationship expert Monica O’Neal. It’s important that your partner feels that they can safely discuss their emotions with you, so O’Neal suggests instead asking (sincerely) what they’re most annoyed about.
5“Maybe we should just break up”
Breaking up with your partner is a big decision, especially if you’ve been together a while. It’s definitely something you’d want to give serious thought to, rather than rashly doing it in the middle of a tense situation. If the situation has really made you feel like you no longer want to be with your S.O, it’s worth explaining that you need some space, so you can take a few days to decide how to proceed.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but people often say things they regret in the heat of the moment. Slinging expletives and insults at your partner is never a good idea. It not only indicates a lack of respect and maturity but it can also really damage your partner’s feelings (and it’s really hard to take back later). The same goes for swearing about the situation. Even if you’re not directly swearing at your partner, it means that you’re flying off the handle and are not in the right state of mind to be having an argument. If you feel like the F-bomb is on the tip of your tongue, it’s a good sign that you need to take some time out to calm down.
7“You’re being crazy”
The stereotype is that this one is said to women by men who want to divert responsibility. But it’s just as hurtful when it’s directed at your boo. Just like “Calm down,” it sends the message that your partner’s emotions and opinions aren’t valid. Instead, it’s a good idea to try to see the situation from your S.O’s perspective and acknowledge that they have a right to feel the way they do (before calmly explaining why you disagree with them).