Arguing in relationships is natural and I like to think of it as an opportunity for growth. This is a moment where you get to learn about the other person and what they need to be happy.
Take a moment and think back to your most recent argument – what were you really arguing about? Was it that someone didn’t return your call fast enough? Your partner didn’t do the dishes? What is really going on? The root of the problem probably lies in one or both of you not feeling love and acceptance. Could be that you don’t feel love from them, someone else, or yourself. You can tell each other from now until tomorrow that you love them but neither of you can hear it – you’re not speaking the same language.
Two people come from different families, different backgrounds, and have lived separate lives where they have learned (differently than you) how to love and accept love – this is your love language. The moment we begin speaking in our own love languages we literally cannot understand each other. No one wants to hurt the other, you love each other, but there is a struggle to be understood.
There are very few (pretty much zero) situations in life where you absolutely cannot see the other person’s perspective. For so long I used to think of issues in my relationships as something they needed to change, something they had to work on, and then we would be happy. But if you put your ego aside and take the time to actually listen to what your partner is upset about you might realize they have a point. Whoever it is, they love you and are arguing because you matter to them, the things they are upset about are often rooted in our own ignorance, not spite, and self-reflection can help us see that.
This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned this year. Whenever I find myself in a fight with someone I love it is a practice to take a moment before I react and reflect on what part I am playing in the scenario. Take a deep breath (a.k.a Get Zen) and remember, no matter what you are telling yourself in your head, they love you and are arguing because they want to find a solution. This is a chance for you to learn how to speak their love language.
For example –
Michael and I have pretty much the same job. We spend a lot of our time focusing on work and physically working side by side. I like to talk about it a lot more than he does – a lot more. He wants to be excited about my job and all that I have going on but there have been many moments where I talk about something and he just brushes it off unenthusiastically. For so long this crushed me. I created this story in my head: “He doesn’t care about my work, he doesn’t love me and want me to be successful.” In reality I was just invading his space when he didn’t have room to hear me. I needed to respect that his head is full of his own projects, thoughts and worries.
After some self-reflection and help from our wonderful coach Annie Lalla I realized I had a huge role in that reaction. I would constantly blurt out things I wanted to say about work rather than ask Michael if he had the space or energy to listen. If I began the conversation with “Hey, I have something I want to share with you about work do you have a second?” he then has the opportunity to prepare himself or let me know if another time would be better (and he actually says no sometimes). This is something I can control.
Rather than trying to change someone else’s behaviour there is almost always something you can do yourself that will help lead to a different result. You can’t change them, but you can control your own behaviours which will in turn change theirs.
- Take a deep breath and some time before you react
- Really try and see the other side
- Identify the role you played (even if you don’t agree with it)
- React with kindness and love (that’s all they want to feel)
- If you’re trying to win, you’ve already lost