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  • Ikuko

How to break away from unhealthy argument patterns

Have you ever experienced or watched the type of argument where person A brings up a small issue to person B and 10 minutes later it becomes a full-blown, out of proportion, life or death (of the relationship) situation?

Well, it’s unhealthy and stressful because it adds unnecessary tension. It can be avoided. It’s a pattern/habit and so it can be broken and we can learn instead to argue healthily. It sounds difficult but I know that it’s possible because lots of couples manage arguments without the relationship breaking down.

Usually there is an underlying cause that has been sitting unresolved for days, months, even years. Whenever a pattern is triggered (yes, there’s always a trigger in a pattern), the couple ‘dances’ from point to point, more like punch to punch in a boxing match, if you can imagine that. This escalates the argument, stoking the fire with past resentment, mixing in past betrayal, or past misdemeanour until the argument is not about that small insignificant issue they began the argument with any more.

Here are the steps to change the pattern:

1. Recognise that you’re in a pattern.

2. Make a commitment to change something.

3. Listen to your partner’s perspective first.

4. Check that you’ve understood their point.

5. Always speak from the “I” position.

6. State your intention.

7. If you’re already triggered, recognise that and step away, take time out.

8. When you’re both calm enough and not tired, preoccupied, or hungry, then approach your partner again with your intention.

9. Speak clearly what you need to get across.

10. Check that the other person understood what you said.

11. Agree on the next action, if there is one, or if you can’t agree about anything, agree to disagree.

Some don’ts:

Don’t blame or criticise the other person.

Don’t use the words “You never…” or “You always…”.

Don’t bring up the past.

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