When you've been together for years, sometimes even figuring out how you'll resolve an argument becomes an argument.
We recently asked our readers to share the most persistent roadblocks they run into when arguing with their spouses. Below, relationship experts tackle each problem.
"Your story sounds frustrating and very familiar. Many of the couples I work with experience the same problem and it’s discouraging when partners don’t feel like their S.O. is hearing an issue. In my practice, I teach couples a dialogue skill that has helped them work through issues in a meaningful way. It’s called the Imago Dialogue: The purpose of this technique is not to determine who’s right and who’s wrong. It doesn’t include fault or blame, but instead focuses on connecting in a healthy way through understanding. When you really listen to your partner, you are cultivating a safe space where they can freely express their feelings. The goal is not to agree, but to understand. You and your husband should try to validate and empathize with each other's perspective. When this happens, a beautiful, safe connection begins to develop. That’s how you turn conflict on its head and actually use it to grow closer together." -- Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania
"If she is responding in a childlike fashion, she may not have developed mature communication skills; unfortunately, many of us haven't. You might try speaking to her in a respectful manner and very innocently inquire about what you heard her say and what your confusion is. For example, 'I'm a bit confused because I thought you said you wanted this but now I'm hearing you say something else. I really do want to understand.' I would encourage you to make sure that you are being honest as well, both with her as well as with yourself." -- Andrea Wachter, a psychotherapist based in Soquel, California
"When you say you get upset 'way too easily,' I suspect that you tell yourself (or have been told) that you should not get as upset as you do. But there is no right or wrong about getting upset. We all have different levels of sensitivity and different topics that trigger us. We all need different things when we are upset, though most of us need kindness and compassion -- those are pretty universal! You said you don’t think your S.O. realizes how you feel. Do you feel safe enough to tell him? Sharing our vulnerabilities and needs is what brings us closer in our significant relationships (as long as we are being heard, respected and honored, that is). Hopefully you can let your partner know what you feel and what you need during those difficult times and turn a fight into a productive, unifying discussion." -- Andrea Wachter
"While 'yes, dear' and 'you’re right' may be the exact response your wife wants to hear -- and it's a good way to avoid a blowup with her -- my main concern is what happens to your anger and feelings when you don’t speak up. The reality is, you can’t selectively push down some feelings and only feel the ones you want to feel; you'll suppress your ability to feel altogether. Storing things up inside and building resentment is never healthy.
To safely express your thoughts and emotions, start your discussion with an appreciation -- something that is really good about your relationship and your partner. This puts you both in a better mood. Then, tell her what you want to say without judgment or blame. Make statements that start with 'I,' not 'you.' Instead of saying, 'you never listen,' say, 'I would like it if you’d listen to me and allow me to get my truth out.' Talk clearly about what you want and need and end with an appreciation -- what you value about your partner, for instance." -- Sheri Meyers, a marriage and family therapist and the author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship
"The next time you find yourself in the same old argument, ask yourself a few questions: First, if I could transform this moment, how would I want it to play out? Second, if I have a choice, do I choose loving connection or lonely disconnect? Third, what is the most productive, relationship-enhancing thing I am capable of doing in this moment?
The second you press pause on the action and take a step back is the moment you begin to move from auto-response and polarization and back into love and communication. Instead of wasting your time and energy on fight #8002, you could be holding hands and planning for much more fun things in your relationship." -- Sheri Meyers