If you’re currently in a relationship of any kind, but particularly a long-term relationship, you know that, despite how very much you love and appreciate this person, every now and then they say or do something so incredibly stupid that you wish you could tear their leg off and beat them to death with it. When you’ve been with someone for a little while, and that initial vertigo of infatuation has worn off, you begin to discover their less endearing personality traits. Usually your mutual love for each other makes it worth sticking around despite these little disagreements, but many of us have perfected the Art of the Argument.
Arguing can be fun and cathartic. Every now and then, a little back-and-forth is absolutely necessary in a relationship. No couple is in accordance all the time, and keeping those feeling bottled up only to explode out at the least convenient moment is an ineffective way of handling life. The key is to know how to Argue without Fighting. An Argument is where two people disagree about something, and proceed to state their feelings calmly and sensitively, thereby coming to some sort of agreement or at least compromise. A Fight is a situation in which wedding china and comparisons of the opposite party to a water buffalo with gangrene are thrown around. Do you see the difference? Arguing is healthy. Fighting is not. Fighting only leads to more animosity than there was in the first place. Here are some tips on how to Argue with a significant other (or anyone, really!) without Fighting.
1) Stay Focused.
Keep to the subject at hand. If the conversation begins with you stating that you would rather he didn’t take apart the blender to make a helicopter for the gerbil, keep the conversation on the gerbil helicopter. Don’t start in on how he always puts the toilet paper on the dispenser backwards and he sucks at using turn signals when he drives and he’s been using the word “clusterfuck” altogether too liberally as of late. It will feel as though you are just jizzing a giant load of his failures all over his face, and his feeling will be hurt. He may even cry himself to sleep that night. He’ll turn away from you so you can’t see, and pretend his hitching breath is an allergic reaction from that stale bag of Bugles he ate earlier, but you’ll both know what’s really happening.
2) Don’t Make Drama
This is a third-grade tendency that has remained with many of us for life. The temptation to fight for no reason at all can be irresistable sometimes. You willingly initiate conversations like the following.
You: “What are you doing?”
Him: “Cutting up a watermelon.”
You: “I don’t like watermelon. You KNOW that. Would it really have been so fucking hard to just get a cantaloupe or a honeydew or some other melon I would have been able to enjoy with you?”
Him: “You didn’t ask me to buy you any melon.”
You: “YOU’RE NOT EVEN MY REAL DAD!” (runs to bedroom, slams door, turns on Marilyn Manson.)
We do shit like this because we expect it to make us feel vilified. It never does, though, does it? I know because I do it all the time, and afterwards I always feels empty and vaguely douche-like. If you are craving a fight just for the sake of a fight, that is instantly a good sign that you shouldn’t instigate a fight. The desire to create drama probably comes from a very human need for attention. It happens to everyone, and there’s no reason to be ashamed of it. Be honest with him; tell him you’ve been feeling neglected lately. Or maybe you’ve just had a rough day and need someone to listen to how you locked your keys in the car and you fell down the stairs in front of the senior VP and you peed in your brand new Victoria’s Secret thong a little during a particularly violent sneeze. Taking your bad mood out on him won’t make you feel better, but having a conversation over a cup of coffee just might.
3) Don’t Take it Personally
Say the two of you are having a conversation about something preferential – baseball team, bands, politicians, etc. Your love of Tina Turner is probably not a deal-breaker, even though he would rather gargle battery acid than ever listen to Tina Turner. He makes disparaging remarks about Tina Turner, but when he says these things, Tina Turner is not the equivalent of YOU. When he says that Tina Turner is a no-talent assclown, he does not mean that YOU are a no-talent assclown. Your love of Tina Turner is, at least in his mind, completely unconnected to your identity as a person. So don’t freak out. Agree to disagree and move on.
4) Choose Your Battles
Sometimes, a conversation moves out of discussion territory and into Argument territory – and then, sometimes, into Heated Argument territory. If you’re like most people, this doesn’t happen too often. So when or if it does, make sure that it’s worth the heartache and the potential couch-sleeping in your (just kidding, his) future. Only start a real knock-down, drag-out session if the issue at hand is, to you, worth breaking up over if it’s not resolved. Are you going to end a ten-year marriage over his reluctance to use a turn signal properly? Of course not. This will keep things from getting blown out of proportion. Before you say anything, think to yourself, “Is it going to affect the entire course of our relationship?” If the answer is no, that doesn’t mean you can’t still nag him about it. But don’t let your frustration get the better of you and allow a Fight to occur. Because that wedding china was really expensive.