Start by developing your voice.
Relationships should be fun. However, that’s not their only goal; neither is it their main purpose. When entering into a relationship, the two of you are building a team. You are trying to build each other up to a point at which you can survive when the flood comes.
Your goal could be to be the person your partner can count on when they encounter tragedy in their life. A further goal could be to help your partner improve such that they can become the person you can count on when you encounter tragedy in your life.
One of the best ways to build your ability to deal with such problems is to learn how to think critically, formulate arguments, and convey abstract concepts. It may not solve every tragedy, but it will at least make it more bearable. Which, in return, is a reasonable goal one can have, especially if it is also an expectation put on the partner.
To build your ability of critical thinking, discussions are crucial. During a discussion, you can train all of the above aspects under slight pressure and with real-time feedback. Apart from this benefit, regular, planned discussions with your partner reap many more benefits. But let’s first focus on how to have civil discussions that don’t end in a breakup.
How to discuss without breaking up
“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”
- Robert Quillen
The mindset with which you are going into a discussion is crucial. You don’t want to win the argument at any cost, especially if you plan on continuing a healthy relationship. Instead, the two of you want to build a symbiosis that grows together — but a symbiosis with different viewpoints.
You want to discover the concept from your partner's perspective while improving your own arguments and their presentation.
Therefore, you have to consider any argument from your partner. Think it through and work with it. You can’t just call their arguments wrong without any reasoning behind it. That’s neither respectful nor helping one of you to improve.
On top of it, the two of you should choose the topics carefully. In the beginning, make sure you are not emotionally connected to the topic. You shouldn’t hurt each other with different viewpoints and arguments. Also, leave out personal attacks and anecdotes.
You should also be careful when blaming your partner for not living up to their argument. If you are partner delivers an argument for veganism, don’t blame them for eating a steak last week. Attacking someone’s integrity is a weak argument, especially when it’s just a simulated discussion.
Bonus: Randomize the side you represent. This is a great exercise for people with experience in discussions. But it also works great if you are just getting started. It’s especially helpful in relationships since the personal viewpoint will not play a factor anymore. It’s not your opinion; you just have to represent the side you got. This leads to an intellectual discussion, instead of a personal one; leaving no room for resentment afterward.
Why engage in planned discussions?
Regular discussions with your partner have three core benefits.
1. Learning to argue
First of all, the two of you will learn how to formulate and convey arguments. For yourself, that’s an essential skill to have in today's world. With the ability to speak and persuade, you will find friends, partners, and investors. You will be able to bring your kids to bed and make them clean up their room — at least as far as arguments can help you with this.
But it’s also beneficial for you when your partner improves their ability to speak and discuss. In the end, you two are a team. And why would you not want a competent partner as your teammate?
2. Be prepared for a flood
Every relationship will reach a point of colliding interests or divergence in core opinions. For partners, this can impose a crucial challenge. With no experience in discussing, a different viewpoint can quickly turn into a fight, leading to a break-up — or even worse, to resentment.
In place of this sequence, there could be a growth experience, making the relationship bond even closer together. When having regular discussions, you will learn how to appreciate different perspectives and see them rather as a chance to grow than a breaking point. An exception is granted for the case that your partner dislikes Mr. Robot. That’s a red flag you should have checked for earlier.
Build the ark before the flood arrives.
3. Get to know each other deeper
With regular discussions, you will discover your partner’s viewpoints and understand the perspective with which they approach life and its challenges. When knowing their perspective, you will be able to deploy more empathy with them, which will, in return, make you a better partner and strengthen your relationship.
The same thing will happen on the other side of your relationship. Your bond will manifest on a deeper level.
Depending on the topics you argue about, you may find what the two of you want from the future. How you are planning to approach your shared life and what your values are. Knowing this allows you to build a firm fundament, on which you both can realize your full potential. Individually and as a unit.
If you want to implement regular discussions with your partner, I’d suggest introducing the concept as it is here presented to you. Don’t surprise them with a sudden increase in discussions. Instead, implement it as a team-building exercise.