Q: My husband and I argue a lot. We are not sure if this is just a habit we have fallen into or if it is a sign of trouble. How do we know if it is a danger signal?
A: If your arguing seems to clear the air and ultimately helps the two of you feel closer, then I would say your arguing is serving a positive purpose.
Arguing is a part of all intimate relationships. The key here is how you argue. Are your arguments fair and relationship building or are they the kind that are painful, abusive, do not lead to resolution, and in fact become a barrier between the two of you?
Some suggestions for arguing and resolving differences in a constructive way that is relationship building are as follows:
1. Be sure you are both clear about what the issue is before you start. Restate each other’s argument or viewpoint to be sure you have heard your partner correctly. It is amazing how often people start an argument and waste a lot of energy on the wrong issue.
2. Use “I messages” to avoid blaming, such as “I feel,” “I perceive,” ”I want,” “I would appreciate,” etc.
3. Always complete and argument. You may need or want to stop your argument temporarily if it is getting destructive or if time does not permit completion, but be sure to plan a specific time (such as 7:00 tonight) to continue. The partner who stops the argument needs to initiate the rescheduling.
4. Check in with yourself to find out if your fight is being fueled by feelings of fear, disappointment, loneliness, or feelings of not being appreciated. These feelings need to be addressed. A minor incident can trigger a major argument if these feelings have been building up.
5. Arguing and alcohol don’t mix. Avoid arguments if either of you has been drinking, as you will not be able to follow fair fight rules. If you notice that arguments typically start after drinking, I would recommend seeking professional help.