Often, when an argument crosses the line, a way to minimise it is to say it was ‘just an argument’, or ‘just a disagreement’. When in reality, the ‘argument’ has caused a lot of pain, mistrust, and fear because of the level of aggression. A clear understanding of the difference between the two can help determine what makes a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
Isn’t that how all couples fight?
Having an argument or a disagreement with your partner is not the problem. You’re both individuals who will probably think and see things very differently from each other. So arguing or fighting is not the problem. It’s how you fight that matters.
How to fight fairly
I’ve found that when working with couples, it’s about helping them to find ways to fight fairly. This involves helping each couple argue in a way that ultimately creates:
- better understanding of each other
- development of greater appreciation for what is important
- know the others point of view
- the ability to express thoughts and feelings without fear or judgement
- that each partner feels safe while arguing
When couples are able to do this, each argument can lead to greater understanding of each other with a renewed sense of closeness. The relationship deepens and grows along with individual growth.
Sadly, there are couples who fight in aggressive and destructive ways which tear each other down. This usually ends up fracturing the relationship with couples drifting further and further apart. It has a damaging effect on self-esteem and at its worst, can be lead to dangerous situations.
Attacking who your partner is – a fast track to divorce
According to communication expert Joseph DeVito, attacking the identity of your partner has the aim to cause psychological pain by mocking how they see themselves. He believes that this aggressive way to communicate will include:
- Your abilities being attacked
- Where you come from being attacked
- Making fun of your physical appearance
- Ridiculing you
- Swearing at you
- Teasing you
- Threatening you
How to respond to aggression
Safety: Firstly, your safety is the priority. If your safety is being threatened call 000 for emergency services to come to your aid.
Stay calm: You have the right to be safe and the right to express your opinion and feelings. When the situation is tense though you need to deal with what‘s going on in the moment. Listen carefully to what is being said and manage your emotions. Recognise what you’re feeling so what you say is led by your thoughts, and not your emotions.
Consequences: All of us need to take responsibility for ourselves. As such, consequences that are put into place can change the way your partner will behave towards you.
You can say
‘’if you’re going to continue to speak me this way I going to stop this conversation’’.
If you’re on the phone you can tell your partner you’re going to hang up.
If they do it again you can say
“I’ve said that if you continued to speak to me in this way I’m going to stop this conversation’’.
But before you do, add a time to when you’re ready to resume the conversation by saying
‘’I’m happy to continue this conversation with you in…….. is that ok with you?’’. It could be 10 minutes, half an hour, whatever works best for you.
Revisit: When you resume the conversation, the pause will hopefully bring awareness to your partners manner of speaking and you can have a frank discussion about.
If they do not respect your wishes then professional assistance may be needed.
What do you want to do?
If this is happening in regularly in your relationship, and your requests are not being responded to, ask yourself these 5 questions:
- ‘do I want to be in a relationship where my safety if threatening?’
- ‘do I want to be in a relationship where arguments end in hurt rather than solutions?’
- ‘is this type of communication alright with me?’
- ‘am I or my partner willing to change?’
- ‘is this how I want to live my life?’
Where to get assistance
If you and your partner are ready to find new ways to communicate and fight fairly, then couples counselling can help you do that. The first place to start is for you and your partner to recognise that change is needed within the relationship for it to survive.
If you’re questioning your relationship, or if you’ve realised that maybe it’s you that is the aggressor, individual counselling is available.
Either way, help is available so you don’t have to do this on your own. The choice is yours.
If you would like either individual or couples counselling to help you develop closeness and openness with your partner, call Rita on 0433 043 102. You can email me at email@example.com or schedule an appointment by visiting www.ritabarnett.com.au