How to handle arguments with your partner for a more harmonious relationship

Practicing clear communication is vital to the strength of your relationships. Source: Getty

Every marriage has its ups and downs, and arguments between spouses are inevitable. However, how couples handle these disagreements can make all the difference in the world. According to experts, effective communication is key to maintaining a healthy and happy marriage. By improving communication skills, spouses can reduce the frequency and intensity of arguments, and strengthen their relationship.

To find out what the key to a relationship free from arguments is, Starts at 60 spoke to leading counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip and asked her for tips couples can use to help enhance their communication skills and how better communication can reduce misunderstandings, ultimately lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship.

What advice do you have for couples who have a long history of arguing? How do they break the cycle?

Ultimately, it is ideal if both partners take a degree of responsibility for the conflict — after all, we can’t argue alone. Regardless if both argue or one is demeaning and hurtful to the other, changes can be made once we learn the strategies and techniques to control those conversations.

Taking back control is essential and even if you have a partner that is somewhat conflictual, you can learn how to change the conversation so that an escalating argument is stopped quickly, leaving the other person with nowhere to go. Imagine how wonderful that would feel, to have control over all these conversations.

What techniques can we incorporate into our daily lives to eliminate conflict?

There are a variety of techniques that can work incredibly well.

  • Be curious when they say something you feel is harsh or unfair. Thank them for sharing what they feel or think then respectfully say to them you are not sure what they meant and if they could possibly please reword it differently so you can understand it clearly

  • Discover the reason. Most of us don’t get up each morning deciding to be rude or mean, therefore, there is a reason for all behaviours. Most of us are nice people who may become frustrated in our life or our relationship. When something is said or done that seems harsh or unkind, ask the other person the reason they did or said that. It should make them stop, think and consider. When they do, emotions lower and logic can return, hence conversations are less intense and more rational

  • Understand the difference between the male and female brains. There is a considerable difference in the manner in which each gender processes. Men are slower and can process far less than a woman’s brain. Therefore, women tend to speak about a number of issues in one conversation, he is lost or stopped at one or two. Women, therefore, do much better when they slow down and discuss one topic at a time to allow them to process that discussion. After all, we all want to be heard and understood to find a resolution to any conversation or issue.

What sort of techniques and tools do you give your clients to help them become better partners?

  • Listen

  • Ask a clarifying question

  • Find humour, but not at anyone’s expense. Lighten up; life is too short

  • Focus on the solution, rather than the issue or problem

  • Write it down

How important is clear communication in a relationship?

Clear communication is vital, but what exactly is clear communication? I guarantee if you ask a number of people, they will all have a slightly different response. Clear communication includes:

  • Listening and asking for clarification

  • Being curious as to the meaning of what the other person said

  • Clarifying the reason they feel the way they do

  • Taking a slow deep breath before responding

  • Logic disappears when we become highly emotional, so lowering emotions brings back logic.

How does arguing with your spouse impact the relationship?

Arguments hurt any relationship. Things are said that can not be unsaid, feelings are hurt, trust is damaged, and memories prevail. Forget those posts that say arguing in a relationship is healthy — it isn’t, ever. Sure, discussions and debates are great if conducted in a mindful, considered and respectful manner, but arguments can leave damaging consequences.

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