Questions to the Therapist: Arguing Question

Answering Questions about Arguing with your Partner

“My partner and I are arguing more frequently and often our arguments escalate to screaming matches.  Are there things you can recommend


so that we can begin to communicate better with each other?”

The first thing to keep in mind is that nothing gets solved in escalation.  If you or your partner are yelling, the problem you are attempting to communicate about gets lost and all that is heard is the escalation.  If you find this happening it is important to take a break so both parties are calm and agree to come back to discuss the issue calmly.  

Some other important things to keep in mind are:  

What is the issue that you are attempting to discuss?  

It is important to clearly identify this and to avoid discussing other issues until the issue being discussed is resolved.  Oftentimes couples will lose sight of the issue being discussed and will jump around to many other issues or the conversation turns to blaming and name calling.

Are both parties aware of the issue?  

Perhaps the issue being discussed is something one of the partners is not aware of and could be solved through better clarification around what one of the partners is needing.

On a scale of 1-10 how angry is each person and is the source of that anger a more primary emotion like guilt, fear, anxiety, stress or depression?  

Anger and escalation are secondary emotions; the majority of the time the true issue is what lies beneath that anger.  It is important to recognize the emotion driving your anger from underneath and begin to communicate that feeling to your partner.

What can be done to bring your level of anger down?  

This is where your coping skills come in.  Like I stated earlier, nothing gets solved in escalation; therefore, you must regulate your emotions through using coping skills so that you're able to discuss the issue calmly and rationally.  It is then that you will have the best outcomes for what you want to discuss.

Has anyone said anything they don't mean?  

Again, this primarily occurs when one or both parties are escalated and have lost sight of the issue that is being discussed.  When someone says something that is personal or hurtful it almost always destroys the ability to communicate effectively and causes hurt feelings and resentment.

Does anyone feel afraid or unheard?  

These are important things to recognize in our self and our partners.  These feelings can begin to derail the communication process and should be discussed and validated, if one or more of the partners are feeling this way.  By focusing on these feelings first and re-assuring our partner, we can begin the process of communicating more effectively and coming to a resolution.

What is the solution or conclusion to what we are discussing?  

This is a crucial step in the communication process.  It is important when communicating to our partner that we express how something is making us feel and what we would like to see differently.  By focusing on what we want to see from our partner or our relationship rather than what we don't want to see we can begin to create new patterns and outcomes for our relationship.  An example of this may be:  Instead of saying, "I hate the fact that you never call me and I am always the one calling you."  You may say, "It hurts me when I don't hear from you and I would like it if you would make an effort to call me more consistently."  Identifying what we would like to have happen places our partner in a position where they do not feel defensive and, instead, know exactly what will improve the relationship.

Have we shown affection and reassured?  

After an intense conversation it is important that we reconnect to our partner through physical and emotional touch.  Give your partner a hug and thank them for their ability to communicate effectively with you.  This goes a long way with future conversations as your partner will remember the positive outcomes from previous discussions you have had and are more likely to use the things that have worked previously.

By remaining calm in your communication, staying focused on the issue and working towards resolution you will begin to have much better outcomes to problems you face as a couple.  It is when we become escalated and begin to say things we don't mean or shame and blame our partner for problems that communication breaks down and resentment and anger builds.  The most important thing in any successful relationship is the ability to communicate effectively to each other.

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