Best Way To Argue With Your Partner According To Psychologist Who Studied Couples For Decades

When’s the last time you really got into it with your significant other? After the yelling was done, did your mind swirl with ideas about what you should have said? Or perhaps about what you should not have said?

Here’s the good news: Not only can you most likely rectify the situation, but also knowing how to approach the argument next time can mean you and your partner have a more productive — and perhaps less volatile — “discussion.”

Productive arguments, in fact, are one of the things that appear to distinguish couples who stay together from those who split, according to research from several psychologists, including University of Washington psychology professor John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute, an organization dedicated to studying and improving relationships.

Together with University of California at Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, Gottman conducted a 14-year study of 79 married couples living across the US Midwest.

Among the couples they studied, 21 ended up divorcing over the more than decade-long period. But among those who stuck it out, Gottman and Levenson noticed some key things about their relationships, including how they fought. Here are some of the key takeaways:

How couples who stay together argue

1. They stabilize a rocking boat.

Among the couples who split, the vast majority took far longer to address a recent argument than those who stayed together, often leaving each other to stew in individual thoughts for hours or days after a fight, Gottman told Business Insider. Conversely, couples who stayed together would typically discuss their arguments almost immediately after they’d happened.

Picture yourself and your partner in a boat, Gottman suggested. Now imagine that the emotions you and your partner are feeling are represented by the sea around you. A small argument stirs the waters a bit and gets the boat rocking. But a quick effort to stabilize the boat — with an open conversation or an apology — can be all that’s required to get you back to smooth sailing.

Waiting around, on the other hand, only strengthens the waves. And waiting too long, he said, can lead to disaster.

To calm a rocking boat, Gottman suggests you and your partner talk immediately and openly about what just happened. This requires recognizing that both of you are partially responsible for the problem and both of you are responsible for making amends.

2. They allow the other person to be heard.

Another characteristic of couples who later divorced that Gottman observed is that they’d frequently cut off discussions about a conflict prematurely with unhelpful, insensitive comments. But strong couples tended to consistently approach one another with an open mind, taking responsibility for their actions and listening to what their partner had to say.

So if, in the middle of an argument, you stop your partner to them they’re being illogical, you’re probably doing it wrong.

“If you tell someone they’re not being logical or say something like ‘you’re getting off track,’ it just doesn’t work. It makes people angry,” said Gottman. Instead, saying something like: “I can see that this is really important to you; tell me more” allows the other person to feel heard.

Credit: BusinessInsider

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