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How to Argue with Your Partner: Advice from A Couples Counselor in Jacksonville, FL

Arguments are healthy. Arguments allow couples to learn about each other's perspectives, even if they differ. If you think arguing is unhealthy, you have probably been exposed to unhealthy forms of arguments that end poorly; however, when handled appropriately, arguments can help you and your partner grow closer together, and that's a win! This article discusses four pieces of advice from a couples therapist in Jacksonville, FL, on how make the most out of an argument with your partner.

cartoon couple working with a couples counselor in Jacksonville, FL

1. Do not Tell Your Partner What They Are Thinking, Feeling, or Intending.

A fundamental mistake in arguments is presuming you know what your partner thinks or feels. This approach is flawed simply because you are not a mind reader. No matter how well you know someone, it's impossible to understand their internal experience fully. This assumption can lead to misunderstandings and escalations in the argument. The solution? Speak only for yourself and your experiences.

Why It's Problematic to Assume

Assuming what your partner is thinking or feeling can lead to misinterpretation. Even if you know your partner well, it's impossible to grasp someone else's internal experiences fully. Your own feelings, biases, or past experiences might cloud your perception of their thoughts and emotions. This misinterpretation can lead to feelings of invalidation and defensiveness in your partner, escalating the conflict instead of resolving it.

2. Ask as Many Questions As Possible

As a couples counselor in Jacksonville, FL, I've found that one of the most effective ways to de-escalate and resolve arguments is through the power of inquiry. Clarity is indeed crucial. Often, the intensity of an argument is fueled not by the disagreement itself but by misunderstandings about each other's viewpoints. Asking questions can illuminate these misunderstandings and pave the way for a resolution.

The Art of Asking the Right Questions

When you're in the midst of an argument, your instinct might be to defend your position or to counter your partner's points. However, taking a moment to ask questions can change the dynamic significantly. The key is to ask open-ended questions that encourage your partner to express their thoughts and feelings more fully. Instead of asking yes-or-no questions, try to ask questions that start with 'how,' 'what,' or 'why.'

For example, if your partner is upset about something you did, instead of immediately defending yourself, you could ask, "What about my action upset you?" or "How did you feel when that happened?" These kinds of questions show that you're listening and that you care about your partner's feelings. They can also provide you with insights into your partner's perspective that you might have yet to consider.

Listening is Just as Important as Asking

Remember, the goal of asking questions isn't just to get your partner talking—it's also to listen actively to their responses. This means giving them your full attention, not interrupting, and reflecting on what you've heard to ensure you've understood them correctly. It might feel challenging, especially if you disagree with what they're saying, but this kind of active listening can be incredibly effective in reducing tensions.

3. Share Your Feelings and Intention

Just as you shouldn't assume to know your partner's thoughts, don't expect them to read yours. Be open about your feelings and what you're trying to convey. This transparency allows for a more honest and direct conversation, reducing the chances of misunderstandings.

The Importance of Expressing Feelings Clearly

One of the most effective ways to improve communication in a relationship is to share your feelings. This means not just stating facts or opinions but also expressing the emotions that underlie your responses. For example, instead of saying, "You didn't do the dishes," you might say, "I feel overwhelmed and unsupported when the chores aren't shared." This approach shifts the conversation from a potential blame game to a discussion about feelings and needs.

Articulating Your Intentions

Similarly, it's important to communicate your intentions clearly. Your partner cannot know the motivation behind your words or actions unless you express it. For instance, if you bring up a sensitive topic, clarify your intention by saying something like, "I'm bringing this up because I want us to find a solution together, not to criticize you." This clarity helps prevent your partner from misinterpreting your motives.

Avoiding Misunderstandings

Misunderstandings are a common source of conflict in relationships. By openly sharing your feelings and intentions, you reduce the likelihood of your partner misinterpreting your words or actions. This direct approach fosters a more honest and transparent dialogue where both partners feel heard and understood.

Sharing your feelings and intentions requires vulnerability, which can be challenging for many. It involves opening up about your inner world and exposing parts of yourself that you might usually keep hidden. However, this vulnerability is essential for building trust and intimacy in a relationship. It shows your partner that you trust them with your authentic self and encourages them to do the same.

4. Use "I" Versus "You" Statements

As a couples counselor in Jacksonville, FL, a common area of focus is the language used during arguments. The choice of words can greatly influence the tone and outcome of a discussion. Particularly, the distinction between "you" statements and "I" statements is crucial.

The Impact of "You" Statements

"You" statements often come across as accusations, which can be counterproductive in a conversation. They tend to place blame on the other person, leading to defensiveness. For instance, saying "You never listen to me" immediately puts your partner in a position where they feel they must defend their actions or character. This defensiveness can derail the conversation and prevent both parties from addressing the real issues.

The Power of "I" Statements

On the other hand, "I" statements focus on your own feelings and experiences. They are a way of expressing yourself without making your partner feel attacked. When you say, "I feel unheard when I talk about my day," it shifts the focus to your feelings. This approach is less confrontational and more likely to foster understanding and empathy.

To construct effective "I" statements, start by identifying and acknowledging your feelings. Then, express those feelings without attributing them to your partner's actions. Focus on the specific situation rather than generalizing. For example, instead of saying, "You always ignore my opinions," try, "I felt upset when my opinion was not considered in our decision yesterday."

Encouraging a Productive Dialogue

Using "I" statements encourages both partners to discuss their feelings openly and honestly. It's an invitation to understand each other's experiences without casting blame. This can lead to more productive and less confrontational dialogues where both partners feel their emotions are valid and respected.

Interested In Learning More?: Talk to A Couples Counselor in Jacksonville, FL

Arguments don't have to be roadblocks in your relationship. Handled correctly, they can be avenues for growth and understanding. If you're in Jacksonville, FL, and looking for guidance on navigating relationship challenges, consider contacting a professional couples counselor. At Philosophie Therapy, we're committed to helping couples build stronger, healthier relationships through understanding and effective communication. To get started, click the button below to schedule a free, 15-minute phone or book your first session with a licensed couples counselor in Jacksonville, FL.


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