I recently received a request to discuss the proper rules of arguing with a significant other (S.O.). This potentially endless list of rules will vary from couple to couple, but here are a few golden nuggets to keep in mind when things get heated.
1) Avoid the B word. Even mentioning a breakup opens the door, making it much more likely you actually will break up. If you really want that to be an option, then you should reconsider how valuable your partner is to you.
To avoid a one-way ticket to Splitsville, discuss issues with the goal of finding a solution that makes you both happy. Yes, you’re both pissed off, but what can you do together to fix the problem?
2) Ditch the ultimatums, especially if you’re bluffing. So much of a good relationship is based on the willingness to compromise, and ultimatums always leave someone in the loser’s corner. Since everyone loves a win-win, don’t throw down the gauntlet unless you really mean it and you’re willing to back yourself up.
Try telling your partner exactly what you want and expect so that you’re on the same page, and an ultimatum never has to happen.
3) Just say it! Storing up little things that bug you and dumping them all at once is a sure-fire way to leave your partner feeling attacked and blindsided by things that he or she may not have known were problems for you in the first place.
Instead, express your concerns as they come up. I mean right away. I suck at confrontation, and after growing up with two older brothers, I have an illogical fear of being perceived a nag, but ManFriend and I are both happier in the long run when we just tell each other we’re mad so we can deal with it and move on. The longer you hold onto negative feelings, the bigger and nastier they get.
4) Don’t be a douchebag. Maybe you want to tell your man he’s a pathetic mama’s boy or tell your girlfriend that her poetry sucks, but avoid the temptation to say things just to be hurtful. In time, your partner may forgive you, but he won’t forget the time you called him a worthless asstard. And your lady will never, ever forget the time you got mad and told her that she did, in fact, look fat in that pink bridesmaid’s dress.
It’s simple; think before you speak. The mean thing you’re about to say is not going to help your situation, so shut your yapper unless your comments are constructive, productive, and relevant to the topic at hand.
5) Facebook is not the place to air your dirty laundry. Changing your status to “It’s complicated” and deleting couple-y photos -thus inviting your 1,000 closest friends to ask you what happened- is passive-aggressive. Take a deep breath and remember: a) you can’t take it back, and b) the only person who needs to hear it is your partner! (For more on this, check out Krisrael’s Unofficial Rules of Facebook.)
Make sure to tell your S.O. anything you would tell (or have told) your friends, especially your FB “friends”. Otherwise he or she won’t won’t know how you really feel until your sister’s ex-roommate’s boyfriend’s second cousin’s mother-in-law re-tweets it.
Join me next week as we finish up with Rules 6-10. In the meantime, choose your battles, take your corner, touch gloves, and fight fair.
Do you have dating or relationship questions? Fire away! I’m no Dear Abby, but I know a thing or two.