WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff
Why Do We Always Argue? How to Handle Disagreements with Love
Arguments are a normal part of a healthy relationship, but sometimes, we can get into a pattern where it feels like we’re ALWAYS arguing with our partner. While occasional disagreements are to be expected, consistent arguments could be a sign that you and your partner are out of alignment with one another. In order to get back on track, it’s important to take a step back and see what’s causing the friction. It could be mismatched communication styles, unspoken expectations, or a lack of connection.
Let’s look at each of these potential issues and how you can identify whether they’re the source of conflict in your relationship. By acknowledging the issue and shifting your behavior, you can work together to handle disagreements with love.
Highlighting issues & Know how you can actually handle disagreements with love:
1. Mismatched Communication:
Interpersonal communication is hard, and most people aren’t great communicators, especially when the stakes are high, like they are in our relationships. We might hide our true feelings to avoid conflict or misinterpret what our partner is trying to communicate because our defensive alarm systems go off. We make snap judgments, get aggravated, and stop listening.
When it comes to healthy communication, you need to get good both at sharing your feelings AND listening to your partner.
When it comes to sharing, we can get into our heads about our own needs. You may not be comfortable bringing up a topic that might upset your partner, so you bottle it up. It keeps causing distress, but your partner doesn’t know because you haven’t told them!
On the other hand, you also need to step out of your own perspective and really LISTEN to what your partner is saying.
When I’m coaching clients, I often notice that when one partner is talking, the other partner is showing visible signs that they disagree with what their partner is saying. They might shake their head, purse their lips, or roll their eyes. It’s clear to me, and to their partner, that they are formulating an argument in their heads about why their partner is wrong and why they are right. I get it. I’ve done this in relationships too. We all do it, but this is really a missed opportunity.
When you focus on what you’re going to say next, you stop being curious about what your partner is actually saying at the moment. You also lose trust in your partner’s ability to hear you, which makes you less likely to share what you want or need in the relationship, creating a vicious cycle of miscommunication.
To counteract this cycle, I recommend a communication style called Nonviolent Communication, developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD*. Nonviolent Communication is a four-step approach that allows us to communicate from the heart, connecting with ourselves and our partners in a way that allows compassion and empathy to flourish between us.
The first step is to observe what has happened that is causing you distress. Try framing the issue as a fact rather than a value judgment. For example, instead of saying, “You’re so inconsiderate! You never come home from work in time to have dinner with me!” Try saying, “I observe that you often come home late from work, which means we don’t get a chance to have dinner together.”
Next, share your feelings about this issue. You might say, “When you consistently come home late, I feel lonely and isolated from you.” This allows your partner to empathize with your feelings. Partners, be careful not to get defensive on this part! Remember that sometimes we are each responsible for how we feel. No one “makes” us feel anything, but by sharing our feelings, we offer the gift of insight to each other.
After sharing your feelings, express the need that is not being met in the current situation. For example, “my need for connection and quality time with you is not being met.” Connection is a fundamental human need and critical for relationship health.
Finally, make a concrete request of your partner. In this scenario, you might say, “I would like to request that you make an effort to be home in time for dinner two nights per week.” Use your request as a jumping-off point and make room for your partner to make other suggestions. Perhaps it’s one night a week and an extended brunch together on the weekends or some other solution that works for the both of you.
This approach is much more successful than slinging around blame and character judgments, but it takes commitment from both partners to listen and share openly and vulnerably.
2. Unspoken Expectations:
A common shared vision is the cornerstone of a successful relationship, but we tend to make a lot of assumptions that can get us into trouble.
Let’s look at an example of how having an undefined vision can get in the way of your success.
Have you ever planned a trip with someone that didn’t turn out how you’d hoped? Let’s say you easily agreed on the destination – great! Trip is on! Flight is booked, and you agree on a mid-range Airbnb together.
But beyond accommodation, you don’t talk about the expectations for budget once you get there. Will you splurge on high-end experiences and dining locations, or will you cook in the condo and find free adventures like hikes and beaches?
That leads to activities. Is this an adventurous trip or a relaxing one? Is your idea of a successful trip to rip through a summer novel every day by the pool or explore every option your destination has to offer?
What about food? Will you eat in or out? Fancy restaurants or roadside stands?
And what about rest and sleep? Will you party til all hours of the night and sleep in until noon? Or do you want to get up to watch the sunrise every morning?
If you’ve only agreed on the destination and haven’t taken the time to get clear on the journey, you’re setting yourselves up for frustration and disappointment.
Now imagine this scenario applied to something bigger and more impactful in your life, like personal finance, your sex life, or raising children. Things can get very bad, very fast, without a clear plan.
If a lack of alignment with your shared vision is creating conflict, it’s time to get clear about what kind of life you and your partner want to build together. I always recommend that my clients start by defining their shared values. Here’s an exercise I do with my clients to help them get clear.
3. Lack of Connection:
Connection is the bond, link, or tie to your partner. When life gets hard, connection is the thing that gets us through. When your communication is a little off, or your shared vision gets blurry, or you’re feeling like your teammate isn’t pulling their weight, connection is the thing that keeps us from drifting apart and allowing distance to grow before we can work toward resolution.
But connection needs to be fed and nurtured, and if you’re arguing frequently, your connection can become strained.
Start to rebuild the connection by implementing repair attempts after one of your arguments. Repair attempts are a subtle or overt way of telling your partner you want to move past your disagreement.
The ultimate repair attempt is a sincere and heartfelt apology, but if you’re not ready for that, you can start by saying something like. “I hate it when we argue. I want to be close to you, and I’m committed to doing better in the future when we disagree.” You can also use humor and physical touch as repair attempts. Just be open to what works for your partner too. They might not respond equally well to all attempts at outreach. If they say something isn’t working for them, listen and adapt.
Once you’ve made your repair attempt and have had some success, make a conscious effort to connect with your partner in a way you know they like. Perhaps they love to get a 4 pm text every day to tell them you’re thinking of them and can’t wait to see them or pick up their favorite meal on the way home from work. Make an effort to do the dishes, even if it isn’t your turn, and tell them to put up their feet for a few minutes. You get the idea.
A consistent effort to connect with your partner will make a massive difference in your ability to handle disagreements with love.
If you’re struggling with any of these issues and need support, check out our coaching programs and courses at tendtask.com.