8 rules of arguing in a relationship

Fighting and arguing is a vital part of any relationship. It's impossible to share your life with someone and not have some sort of conflict, even if it's about something as trivial as who empties the rubbish bins.

Random screaming and shouting isn't the best way to run a relationship, so you may not be surprised to find out that there are rules that should make sure that any arguments you have only strengthen your relationship, rather than make it worse.

Read our rules of arguing, avoid a slanging match and make your relationship a happier place...

How to argue | Rules of relationships | Conflict management

1. Don't name call

What you do: In the heat of the moment, it's very common for people to start insulting each other and say things that, let's face it, we don't really mean or want to say.

What to do instead: Focus on the issue that you're actually trying to solve and don't attack your partner personally. Make sure your fights don't end up in insults that could actually leave long-term emotional scars.

Telling your partner he's a 'useless lazy lump' will stay with him longer than his inability to empty the dishwasher. In fact, he's likely to forget the point of the argument totally if you insult him.

2. Keep to the point

What you do: Allow the argument to move onto all sorts of little niggles and whinges you have about other things that your partner does or doesn't do.

What to do instead: When you're arguing about something specific, make sure you do just that. Be honest about what it is that bothers you and stick to it.

By only fighting about one particular issue at a time, you're more likely to come to an agreement than if you branch off into lots of other things.

3. Have an end-goal in mind

What you do: Argue without knowing what you want to achieve. This means you go round in circles or don't know when to stop.

What to do instead: Assuming it's you who starts the discussion, try to have a goal before things kick off. Think about your ultimate result and possibly somewhere in between you'd be happy with.

That way, when you get drawn into a full-blown argument, you always have something to aim at. It will help you reach some sort of compromise, where hopefully you're both happy.

4. Say sorry

What you do: Don't take responsibility for your argument and go off in a huff once you've finished.

What to do instead: We don't mean apologise before you start, because deliberately starting an argument isn't what most people set out to do.

However, once you come to an agreement, it won't hurt you to say sorry about the argument. The two words will mean a lot to your partner and help your relationship immensely.

5. Not in front of the children

What you do: Get really irritated by something and start screaming at your husband immediately when your kids are also in the room.

What to do instead: Even if you feel the issue is really important, let it wait until your children are in bed or out of the house. Having an argument with the kids in earshot is just bad form and can damage them emotionallly, especially if it happens regularly.

The other advantage of waiting is that you may have calmed down from when you originally wanted to argue and it may make the fight less explosive.

6. Steer clear of the booze

What you do: Go out for a couple of drinks and pick a fight about something really trivial.

What to do instead: If something begins when you're a little tipsy, try to stop it as soon as possible and suggest waiting until the next day, when you're both sober. 9 times out of 10, the argument will seem really trivial.

Some of the most volatile arguments you can have will happen after a couple of glasses of wine or pints of beer - and not only that, they're usually the worst ones you can have.

Just as drinking affects your judgement of distance, speech, hearing and often sight, it also affects your ability to argue clearly.

7. Sit and look at each other

What you do: Have a running argument all round the house, often not even standing in the same room.

What to do instead: Try and sit down at the dining table or on the sofa and talk through the problem. By keeping eye contact, you will be less likely to say something you regret and you will also see the impact of anything you say.

Another benefit of sitting down is people tend to talk less forcefully when they're not standing up. Your argument will benefit from the less explosive nature of the words.

8. Take a breather

What you do: Scream and shout until you're both blue in the face and keep going round in circles for hours.

What to do instead: Stop and take some time out. There's no rule that says you always have to come to an agreement in one sitting. It's fine to suggest taking a breather and coming back to the issue in a couple of hours, or even tomorrow.

The only thing you must remember to do is make sure you come back and resolve the argument. Taking a break isn't to be used as an excuse to finish the argument!


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