Arguments can play an important role in our relationships – for better and for worse. Could arguing the right way help you to improve communication in your relationship?

Conflict is inevitable. No matter how healthy or strong your relationship is, at some point or another, you will find yourselves arguing. But what if that was actually a good thing? 

Can arguing be good for your relationship?

According to research, couples who argue effectively are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship than those who try and ignore issues by sweeping them under the carpet. When we avoid discussing sensitive issues in an effort to avoid arguments, we risk damaging our relationships. Whereas when we focus on tackling issues in a more productive, head-on way through arguing effectively, we can strengthen feelings of intimacy, trust and connection. 

Counselling Directory member and Counsellor, Gregori Savva, explains more about how arguing can be a part of healthy relationships,

“Arguments are a means of addressing differences, directly and openly, by airing your point of view and renegotiating the boundaries and expectations. Even agreeing to disagree can be a helpful way of clearing the air.

“When you have arguments it can be a constructive way of disrupting the old patterns of behaviour and relating that have become too stale and inhibiting. Through healthy conflict you can actually change the current situation, as you renegotiate your boundaries and move forward in relationships. Healthy arguments don’t have to descend into destructive patterns of conflict or abuse.”

Fighting in a healthy, constructive manner can also help us to learn more about our partners. Arguments can often provide the opportunity to air out any specific grievances, gain clarification, and address issues that we may not even have been aware mattered so much to each other. 

When we learn to argue more effectively and ensure that we are doing so in a respectful manner, it can create the opportunity to learn more about each other, maintain or set new boundaries, and resolve issues that may otherwise damage our relationships in the long run. While constantly arguing can be a sign of more serious issues, learning when and how to argue may be more helpful than trying to bottle things up and risking things reaching breaking point. 

How to have healthier arguments with your partner

Having healthy arguments as a couple can be an important skill to learn. When you find yourselves having a disagreement, it’s important to try and take a step back, take a deep breath, and approach things calmly and carefully. Try and:

  • Choose your words carefully. While emotions tend to run high during arguments, it’s important to try and remain calm. Instead of using sharp words or insulting language, try to be more careful, considered, and intentional. Your partner is more likely to listen to what you have to say if you both leave insults at the door and try to be respectful of each other. 
  • Speak to (not down to) each other. When we speak directly with our partners, instead of speaking down to them, it can help to avoid increasing tension as well as to maintain a level of mutual respect. 
  • Listen carefully and openly. Listening with an open mind helps ensure that you both feel heard and understood. When it feels like we aren’t being heard, it can discourage us from speaking again in the future. Ensuring you are listening, asking questions, and keeping things on track to encourage furthering the conversation instead of trying to score points or hurt feelings can help to encourage healthy discussion in the future. 
  • Give each other time to speak. You both need space to talk through your side of things. Try not to interrupt each other (unless clarification is needed) or to hurry things along. If emotions are running high, it can be helpful to agree to come back and have the conversation again at a later time. This can give you both the space needed to clear your heads and approach things more calmly. 
  • Consider their perspective. Looking at things from their point of view can help you to see your disagreement or misunderstanding in a whole other light. This can also give you a better understanding of why they may be reacting or speaking in a certain way, help you to see different ways you could compromise, or even recognise whether or not now is the best time to discuss this or if it should be delayed. 
  • Reach a resolution. Even when things become challenging, it’s important to try and find a solution. You can still take a break or come back to do this later, but leaving issues unresolved can lead to a growing sense of frustration. 
  • Consider your non-verbal cues. Body language can have a significant impact on how others perceive what we are saying – and what is left unsaid. Keep your body language, facial expressions, and gestures in mind to avoid any miscommunications or mixed messages.  

It can be tricky, but ensuring you stick to the topic at hand, avoid personal attacks, and stay present (rather than resorting to withdrawing, stonewalling, or using silent treatment) are all important things to keep in mind. Relationship therapist Georgie Kalozoe-Card explains more about the golden rules to fighting and thriving in relationships

Red flags when arguing with your partner

There are many unhealthy ways to argue with your partner. If you find yourselves resorting to name calling, making threats, comparing your relationship or partner with someone else, involving your children, or resorting to silent treatment, it can be a sign that you may need additional help in better communicating as a couple.

Working with a relationship therapist of couples counsellor can help you to communicate more effectively, discuss concerns or worries openly and safely in a judgement-free environment, and address underlying issues that you may struggle to talk about together.

How to not shut down in an argument 

Sometimes it can be hard to feel like we can successfully express ourselves, our feelings, and our perspective when arguing with someone you love. If you find yourself withdrawing during an argument, trying to change the subject, leaving altogether or resorting to being quiet until the argument is over, this can mean that you may be stonewalling your partner. By pulling away from them like this during an argument, it can make them feel ignored, unimportant, and unheard.

If you find yourself shutting down during an argument, try and:

  • Let your partner know how you are feeling. Tell them if you are finding it difficult to talk about a certain subject - knowing you are apprehensive and why can help to open up the discussion and start things more gently. 
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, let them know. This can help them to feel more prepared and understanding if you do need to pull away and take a break during an argument. 
  • Take time to gather your thoughts. It’s OK to have a break – whether that’s a few minutes, a few hours, or coming back to the discussion the next day. 

Can counselling help us improve communication in our relationship?

Learning more about each other's emotional needs and how we can help meet these needs is an important part of improving and fostering healthy romantic relationships. Working with a therapist or a counsellor can help you to feel more comfortable in talking about your needs, feelings, worries and concerns. 

Therapy can create the opportunity to have uninterrupted time together to speak in a safe space without any distractions from outside sources. Therapists can also help you to learn simple ways to improve your communication together, helping you to learn techniques to help you feel heard and to improve your ability to actively listen. A couples counsellor can also provide valuable insight, helping you to identify unhealthy or unhelpful patterns that may have formed. 

Just as breakdowns in communication take time, so too does improving communication. It’s an ongoing process that takes time, patience, and a willingness to change. Discover more about relationship counselling and how it can help you