As the evening gets darker, the questions get darker

2 key tips to change the way you have arguments

Arguments can become quite repetitive and never ending for many couples. They can also become spiteful as you might be feeling cornered, vulnerable and scared, so you retaliate. This might also mean you are not managing your own feelings and start to lash out and accuse your partner because you might not know how to talk to them about how you are feeling. You might want to blame your partner and not take responsibility for what you have done to cause the argument.

Then there are couples who don’t argue at all. They feel all the above and want to avoid hurting their partner or themselves so they don’t talk about the issues. They might just then hold onto their feelings and either resent their partner or want the issue to fade away. Sometimes the reason for getting upset does fade away, but it can also come back with a vengeance later, even years later.

The reasons couples argue can vary. However, most couples argue about the smallest insignificant of issues and don’t really talk about the bigger issues. The bigger issues in the end are more than likely to trigger the small arguments such as putting clothes away or who should be cleaning the kitchen worktops, etc.

Whatever the argument, big or small, here are a two key tips that have helped couples I see in my private practice:

1. As the evening gets darker, so do the questions

One of the myths couples seem to hold onto is that you shouldn’t go to bed on an argument. This is nonsense. I’ve heard many couples arguing until the small hours. The problem is that as the evening rolls on, the questions get darker. As it becomes later, both of you will be getting tired. As you get tired, the questions get darker and the answers become shorter as you can’t think straight because you are tired. And so you create the forbidding vicious circle.

For many couples where one partner has had an affair, this seems to be the case. The partner who has been betrayed needs answers. The questions will ultimately get darker as the evening gets darker. And the answers become thinner and confusing, as the partner who has had the affair just wants the questions to end. The problem is, that as the evening progresses, we are not thinking clearly, which can confuse the issue and make things far worse than when you started to answer questions.

To be able to get the right questions out and to be able to answer honestly and clearly, you need to put a time limit on your argument. I would recommend calling a stop to your arguments or questioning before 9.30 pm. This gives you both time to wind down (if you can) before you go to bed. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be in a good place to think about what you are arguing about or to be able to think clearly and honestly. Sleep is important in resolving arguments, as the more we argue our cognitive ability to think declines, so does our mood, tolerance and resilience.

If you are going to talk about the issues you are concerned about or have annoyed you, make time when both of you are not tired. If you really love your partner, get some sleep. You will then be more likely to want to talk about the issues and able to give a straight, honest answer. So set time aside to talk about your concerns, and I mean talk rather than argue, as you are less likely to become irritable and annoyed when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Just acknowledge that it would be better for both of you to rest and start when both of you are rested. But don’t make being tired an excuse not to talk.

2. Give “I’ll try” and “OK” a break

During most arguments, we often find ourselves going in circles and we ultimately want to end this cycle. We often then start to acknowledge that we will change, so we start to say “I’ll try” or “OK”. This acknowledgment can quickly become your downfall. By saying “I’ll try” means that you aren’t really going to put any effort into changing, that you might “try” which is like saying, “I’m going to try to climb mount Everest” when in fact you haven’t a clue how to do it or how to prepare. It’s the same when you are trying to end an argument.

To make a real difference, acknowledge you will actually do something to change. Instead of saying “I’ll try”, say to your partner what you are actually going to do, how you are going to do it and when you are going to do it. Don’t just say “I’ll try to change”. Mean what you are saying, and be honest with what you can do. If you can’t do what your partner wants you to do, say what you can do instead, but give a reason as to why you can’t do what they want.

The other word that stops an argument is “OK”. However, “OK” can be quite hurtful and stop your partner short. It’s a way of stopping your partner talking, “OK, OK, OK… OK…”. This also means you don’t want to hear what your partner is saying. Instead of saying “OK”, you could say, “OK, I hear what you are saying”, which would mean you might have been listening. To make a difference is to say what you have heard. Instead say, “I’ve heard you say…”, explaining what you’ve heard and how what your partner has said has made you feel. This gives a more open response rather than closing down the argument.

As we approach the holiday season we can become more tired as we try to prepare everything for the holidays, think to yourself, how productive are you when you are tired and whether you are avoiding or shutting down your partner with small platitudes.

Get some sleep, recover from the day and wake up refreshed so you and your partner can talk about the concerns you have with a clearer open mind.

Originally posted in

Image by Ryan Pouncy

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