How to Avoid Common Argument Triggers
Even if you are in a loving, healthy relationship, the occasional argument is inevitable – after all, you're passionate about each other, and that manifests in all kinds of ways. But when you start to feel like the same old fights are running on a loop, it's time to channel that passion into a few proactive steps to circumvent common arguments blowing out of proportion.
Change your perspective
Both inside the bedroom and out, "It takes two to tango." This idiom is especially applicable to arguments. Regardless of who fired off the first hurtful words, the bottom line remains that two people must be present for a fight to occur. However, there are things you can do individually to help minimize the likelihood of falling into your typical argument and a subsequent cycle of anger.
Say you both squabble over whose turn it is to take out the trash, walk the dog or clean the table. Before your next fight, practice distancing yourself from your emotions. So, rather than jumping straight to negative thoughts – “he’s so lazy,” – try seeing things from another perspective – “he might be tired from a day’s work or may have forgotten it was his turn to do the dishes.” The more you practice seeing situations from another’s perspective, the less likely you are to immediately jump to negative sentiments. In doing so, you'll diminish the power they have to create conflict.
The more you practice seeing situations from another’s perspective, the less likely you are to immediately jump to negative sentiments.
Address issues upfront
In a recent poll of 3,000 adults, BetterBathrooms.com discovered that 10 of the most common – and persistent – relationship triggers stem from simple household peeves like stubble in the sink, channel surfing and leaving lights on from room to room.
There's an important lesson to be learned here, indeed: the best way to deal with an issue is to actually deal with it. Don't skirt around things that irk you or walk on eggshells. The longer you go without addressing little things, the more likely it is they'll turn into big things.
Remember your partner
Just like you can't engage in an argument by yourself, you can't resolve one by yourself either. And, while you can work on your own mindset to help minimize blow-ups, avoiding conflict isn't a solo act. Let this principle guide you, you are part of a team. Remember that your partner is your ally, not your enemy, and treat them as such when faced with a trigger.
"When couples are able to communicate closeness, affection (for example, a touch on the arm or cheek), and even humor in the midst of an argument, the impact of harsher words is diminished," explains Benjamin Karney, Ph.D., co-director of the Relationship Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Stop keeping score
This tenet goes hand-in-hand with remembering that the person by your side is on your team, not competing against you. As Bob and Marlene Nuefeld, Ottawa-based husband-and-wife relationship therapists, sums it up, "We ask [couples like this]: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be in a relationship?" In other words, don't sacrifice your relationship just for a "win."
When couples keep score, they wind up in a blame cycle, effectively rendering them incapable of avoiding argument triggers – tension in this kind of relationship is circular, with triggers running into one another until they form a seamless track.
Reveal the root
The fact is all couples fight. It's nothing to be ashamed of – it can actually be a barometer of your relationship's vitality. Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don't Break Up, elaborates, "Arguing can be a sign that your relationship is strong and passionate, and that you're comfortable enough to express negative feelings without fear of losing each other in the process."
But be mindful not to let bickering overpower empathetic communication. If at any point argument triggers start to tip the scales, you should take a deeper look at your relationship so you can address the root of your problems.
About the Author
A native of Charleston, S.C., Julie Sprankles has been writing professionally since 2003. She received a double Bachelor of Arts in English and communications from Charleston Southern University. Formerly editor-in-chief at award-winning shelter publication "Charleston Home + Design Magazine," Sprankles now enjoys writing and editing full-time.