5 Simple Questions to Help Partners Argue Less

In my prior post, I discussed how lack of sleep, hunger, and stress can create or escalate conflict. We can’t escape from the outside world or ignore our basic needs, so we will always be vulnerable to these external factors. But we can become more aware of how these factors influence our behaviors and try to minimize their effects. 

Try answering these questions:

  1. Are you a morning or evening person?
  2. Is your partner a morning or evening person?
  3. When you think back on your worst fights, do they tend to occur at a particular time in a particular place?
  4. When you think back on your most productive fights, do they tend to occur at a particular time or in a particular situation? (perhaps taking a walk together or during a long drive?)
  5. Do you do better fighting it out right away or waiting and having some space before you discuss a problem? What about your partner?

Once you figure out when your fights are most likely to turn into blow ups and when they are most likely to be productive, try making a commitment to put a topic on pause during the worst times. You can help keep this commitment by making a rule with your partner that if you start to disagree before or after a certain time, or in a certain situation, you will stop and save it for later. Even if your partner is not on board with this, you can make a rule for yourself not to bring up a contentious topic at certain times. For example, when my child was young and I was sleep deprived I found that it never went well when I voiced complaints right before bed. First, those complaints only felt like a big deal because of how tired I was. And second, instead getting my much-needed sleep, I stayed up for another hour or two to try to deal with the fall out of my ill-timed comment. After too many of those times, I made a rule for myself that if I find myself frustrated or annoyed and it’s after dinner, I’ll wait and see if I still feel that way in the morning. If I do, I’ll deal with it when we have time to discuss the issue, Having this rule in place has saved me from many unnecessary fights.

Of course, if you are someone who feels very stressed and busy, it might seem like there is never time to talk through and deal with issues calmly and constructively. You are tired at night and busy trying to get out of the house in the morning. On the weekends you are trying to have family time or play catch up with chores and work. When is there time to fight constructively? Consider scheduling time together. In an over-scheduled world, scheduling time to fight might seem like the height of ridiculousness. But if you know that you have a scheduled time to talk with your partner about issues that are bothering you, you may be less likely to blow up over a minor complaint now.

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