Ever find yourself going around in circles in an argument? It could be with your other half, family member or a colleague but the feelings you’re left with are the same – a little bit hurt and a whole lot of frustration.
You think: What don’t they get me? Why aren’t they listening?
One of the reasons why arguments go nowhere is simply because when we’re engaged in an argument, we have weapons we use to make us feel heard, to self-soothe, to ‘win’. The consequence of using these weapons is that it drives people further away and it prompts others to retaliate with weapons of their own. It’s why small arguments can escalate into full blown fights.
When I met Jane, her and her boyfriend Steve were just celebrating their 2 year anniversary. They didn’t fight often but when they did, Steve would end up burying himself with work and it’d often end in Jane retreating to her mom’s place for weeks at a time.
In this relationship Jane’s weapon was leaving and Steve’s was his work. Both just drove them further a part. None worked towards the problem at hand.
And how often does this happen? I’ll be the first to admit that it’s much easier to retreat to the things that will make us feel instantly better but the consequence is that the real problem doesn’t get solved.
When Issy and Matt argue, Matt turns to a night out at the club with his single mates while Issy gives Matt the silent treatment for days. It drives Issy mad when Matt goes out after a fight. She thinks he’s trying to make her feel jealous. Matt can’t stand Issy’s silent treatment, he thinks she’s expecting him to read her mind to figure out what he did wrong.
We all have ‘weapons’ or a conflict resolution pattern. Not all are effective.
Some examples of weapons used may be:
- Leaving a room or the house without an explanation
- Giving your partner the silent treatment
- Yelling or screaming
- Retreating to other friends or family members
- Bringing up past arguments
- Embarrassing your partner in ‘harmless jokes’ in front of others
- Making your partner jealous by hanging out with other men or women
What are your weapons? How does your partner/family member/colleague feel when you use them?
The best thing for your relationship is to recognise what your weapons are and more importantly, how your partner responds to them. When you engage in your particular way of coping, does it drive your partner further? Also, are you arguing to win or are you arguing to resolve the issue at hand?
When you’re in an argument, it’s easy to feel frustrated and go to the one thing that’ll make us feel better at the moment but it doesn’t always solve the problem.
If you find yourself stuck in the same pattern of conflict resolution, find new ways to interrupt your partner’s pattern. A way that lifts the current tone of an argument and one that makes them feel heard and acknowledged.
Because at the core everyone just wants to be heard and acknowledge.
A few ways to disrupt your patterns in an argument:
- Ask for time out so you both can reflect on your actions. It takes two to have an argument
- Do something outrageous and silly i.e. dance or make funny faces
- Tell your partner how you really feel i.e. if you find yourself running out of the house during an argument you can say: “Babe, I’m feeling frustrated now and even though I know I shouldn’t I really want to leave the house right now. Can we resolve this in another way?”.
- Understand that sometimes it’s not about you. Is your partner projecting his feels on you? When our partner is stressed or in a bad mood, it can be tempting to absorb their emotions.
Photo by Evan Phillip