How to heal arguments between you and your loved one
Frequent tempestuous arguments or stony silences make life miserable. They make you feel unheard, unloved and unappreciated. So often your partner is in pain too. Even realising this, you still can’t fathom why they are acting in such a hostile or shutdown way. Deep down, you still love them. And you suspect they love you too, but you are stuck.
If your relationship has become a battlefield, it’s not too late to turn the tide. Most big arguments boil down to not seeing what’s really going on deep down. And that is nearly always due to not-so-good communication skills. With a willingness to work together, you can learn new ways of communicating which will help make your relationship more peaceful than before.
What is causing the arguments—or the shutdowns?
When you first met your partner, curiosity led you to ask hundreds of questions. You wanted to know them inside and out, and your partner likewise wanted to know you deeply. Admiring their strengths, seeing shared values and noticing their vulnerabilities is a huge part of the falling in love process.
As the years pass, perhaps with the arrival of children, there is a natural tendency to take one another for granted. Despite the misconceptions about people not changing, we do—all of the time.
After the honeymoon period in a relationship, curiosity questions tend to dry up. Yet over time, your values, beliefs and dreams shift—and your partner also changes. Often these changes are subtle and evolve slowly. Over six months, any changes may not be consciously recognised. But in the space of six years, all those small changes add up to something substantial.
How well do you know your partner today?
Once you would have been able to answer all of these questions with a lot of confidence. Answer these 10 questions, then ask your partner to answer them without revealing what you have answered. How many of your answers matched theirs?
- What is their biggest dream for the next 10 years?
- What do they fear they won’t achieve in life?
- How do you spot the signs that your partner is unhappy?
- What irritates them the most about your behaviour or habits?
- What do they love about you the most?
- Who do they most admire for who they are or what they do?
- When and where do they sing or hum along to music or the radio?
- What social/sport/hobby activity gives them the most joy?
- What do they most dislike about their body?
- If they could invite anyone to dinner, who would they ask?
Did you get ten-out-of-ten? Well done if you did. the lower the score, the more it would indicate that you and your partner need to re-get-to-know one another.
How we make things worse
When we don’t know our partner as well as we could, we compound things further, with the assumption that our partner’s views, beliefs and values haven’t changed. It’s equally likely that your partner does this too. If you are constantly arguing, the chances are that you no longer understand one another as well as you once did. In long-term relationships, this not knowing is far more common than might be imagined.
This lack of a deeper understanding can lead to a perfect storm. Something that is now important to you, is not seen, valued or even heard. Depending on your natural personality type, you may become a fiery fighter, shouting about what’s wrong. Or you go inward and close down in silence. Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach?
Life Meetings: How to communicate with dignity
Enhancing communication skills reduces the frequency of arguments. To help facilitate this, I have created a method called Life Meetings. I named it this because it’s to deal with everything that is happening in life—but the name is not essential. Call it whatever works for you, but follow the methodology because it works. These meetings are scheduled a day or two in advance and last for just 24-minutes.
How to set-up a Life Meeting
With agreement from your partner to try this new approach, choose a topic that your wish to resolve. Send a text message to your partner with just these words:
Your usual greeting.
I would like to invite you to Life Meeting at (time) in the (place).
The topic of this meeting is… (outline it, using just a few words).
Please let me know if you can join me.
Your usual sign-off.
Choose a time for this meeting when you can have 24-minutes without being disturbed. Ideally, your meeting is at a table in your home – where you can sit opposite one another. The important part is to sit facing one another. The topic needs to be very specific. In all contentious issues, there are many aspects to it. Choose just a small part of it to unravel, look at and discuss. For the meeting, you will need a mobile phone to act as a timer.
How a Life Meeting works
At the agreed time, sit opposite one another. The person who sent the text message begins the meeting. Set the timer on your mobile phone for three minutes. Now you have these minutes to start talking about the topic. Share with your partner your thoughts, feelings and frustrations. During this three-minutes, your partner needs to keep eye-contact with you, and they may not speak.
In Life Meetings, people either rattle on for the full three minutes without taking a breath. Or, after around two minutes, they feel they have said everything they need to say. In either case, the three minutes is sacred. So, when the timer pings, you have to stop talking, even if you are mid-sentence. Alternatively, if there is silence after two minutes, the silence has to be honoured. This quiet time provides valuable thinking time, allowing for any last-minute words to be spoken.
After the first three minutes, it’s your partner’s turn. During their time, you keep eye-contact and don’t interrupt. When their three minutes are up, then it’s your turn again. Both of you take turns in this way until each of you have had four turns each.
Typically, in the first two rounds, out pours all of the hurt and frustration. But slowly, each of you begins to be heard, and you both begin to see things differently. In the final two rounds, it’s good to start asking questions–even though they can’t answer until it’s their turn.
Not all Life Meetings provide a solution—and that’s OK. What will have happened is that you stayed (mostly) calm because there were no interruptions. If you have made progress—that’s great. If you still need to talk about it some more, then simply agree to have another meeting after three days have passed. Doing this, you also promise to not talk about this topic until the next meeting. By not talking about for a few days, means you can think about what was said. In the second Life Meeting, it’s likely to bring up more creative solutions that are workable for you both.
One last thought about Life Meetings. When talking, aim not to accuse, blame or judge. Instead, tell each other how it feels from your perspective. For example, saying, ‘I feel upset about…’ is very different from ‘You have made feel very upset when you…’ The former allows your partner to hear your side of things. The latter will likely lead to them shutting down and not listening to what is really going on.
Scheduling a Life Meeting once a week for a month will dramatically improve what you know about each other at a deeper level. It improves your ability to listen and have empathy for your partner. It helps lessen the frequency of arguments and is healing to your relationship. After the first month, choose to have a Life Meeting once a month—there many, many topics in everyone’s life that would benefit from this practice of regular Life Meetings.
You, your partner are not perfect—nobody is. We all have flaws and weaknesses. At times we all say and do things that are thoughtless or even hurtful. The question to ask yourself is, can you forgive your partner for doing what they did or said? Can they forgive you too? There is no right or wrong answer to this—only you know. But if you feel you can forgive one another, then my Forgiveness Ceremony (download my pdf) will guide you through the process.
As a Life Coach and Emotional Healer, I specialise in helping couples find their way through difficult situations. It’s not always an easy path—but it is wonderful to see couples make it to a better, happier and healthier place. If you need help to improve your relationship, I would be honoured to help you too. Please see my deep healing Couples Retreats at The Jasmine House, and Couples Coaching by phone and video.