Are your arguments getting in the way of your relationships?
Try taking an third-party observer's view.
This picture showcases what bad acting looks like.
Nobody has a perfect relationship with their partner. If they say they do, they are probably lying.
Fighting and arguing can introduce a heck lot of negativity into our relationships.
In the heat of all the emotions, our arguments can get nasty really quickly. Perhaps plates are thrown, walls are punched, or someone leaves the house altogether.
It takes a while for emotions to fully dissipate. Until they do, the pent-up feelings lead to periods of silence and avoidance of each other.
It sends our precious relationships into decline.
I recently spoke to a friend who was telling me about his arguments with his partner.
He shares that it's usually the same topic they argue about each time. Yet these arguments are the only thing getting in the way of their blossoming relationship.
The story is that his partner is passionate about empowering women in the workplace. For example, she believes that there should be additional visibility for women to take up senior roles in organisations.
This conflicts with his beliefs, where he thinks "empowering" any group only serves to disadvantage others, and he believes in promoting "equality" instead.
It becomes a tough situation because every time his partner brings up the topic, which is an inevitably thing, it spirals down the hole of arguments. One person criticises, only to be met by defensiveness and anger.
Nobody's right. Nobody's wrong. Each person is simply standing up for their beliefs, right? They are arguing for what they believe to be true.
Well, that is actually the problem.
We often argue from our own perspectives.
When we experience conflicts with others, we typically take a first-person perspective.
We are concerned with our own thoughts, feelings and values.
Many times when we argue, our emotion pain comes from what we think about our partner's behaviours and intentions - that they are trying to put us down, change our beliefs, or just trying to prove us wrong.
Our own evaluations of our partner aren't always correct. Why? Because when we take a first-person perspective, we aren't taking the perspective of our partners.
We don't see that they are just trying to share their own beliefs, or burdens, or even their needs.
For example, in the case of my friend, he isn't arguing to prove her wrong - he is arguing because of what he believes to be true.
It's just that it comes across very wrong when all we do is take our own perspectives.
Here's a research-backed practice on how to change it.
The practice of "Gaining Perspective on an Argument".
In essence, this practice invites us to adopt a third-person perspective, the perspective of an observer who sees both partner's point of view and wants to achieve the best resolution for everyone.
An intensive research study looked at 120 married couples across a two-year period. All 120 couples were showing signs of marital decline.
In the study, half the couples were assigned to receive an intervention, while the other half fell into the control group, who weren't given any intervention at all.
For the couples who received the intervention, it was via an email that was sent every four months for a year.
What happened? As soon as the couples who were assigned the intervention started practicing it, they stopped seeing a decline in their marital quality. Their sense of satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust and commitment for each other had stablised.
On the other hand, the control group continued to experience declines in marital quality.
Figure with nonsense symbols from the research paper.
In simple terms, this intervention works.
And do note, this intervention was only practiced practiced three times in a whole year. We can only imagine what would happen if we practiced it more frequently.
Let's practice "Gaining Perspective on an Argument".
You can expect to spend about 15 minutes on this activity. It's meant to be a activity where you take some time to think and reflect about a recent argument. It works even better if you write down your answers to each of the questions below.
Then take your reflections and try practicing it whenever conflict arise with your partner. Try your best to practice what you're written down every time an argument arises.
If possible, get your partner to read this article and write down his or her reflections too.
Every few weeks or so, revisit your reflections and your progress - make adjustments and improvements where you see fit.
There are three step to this reflecting and writing activity.
Ready? Let's go:
1) Taking a Third Party Observer's perspective.
Think of a recent disagreement that you had with your partner. Write down on your paper what happened.
Now try and see this disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved - a person who sees things from a neutral point of view.
How might this person think about the disagreement?
How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
2) Creating space to practice during conflicts.
Some people find it helpful to take this third-party perspective during their interactions with their romantic partner. However, almost everybody finds it challenging to take this third-party perspective at all times.
In your relationship with your partner, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-partner perspective?
What are the obstacles especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner?
3) Visualising the positive outcomes
Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party perspective, people can be successful in doing so. Over the next 4 months, please try your best to take this third-party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements.
How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next 4 months?
How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship?”
Finally, allow these reflections to inform your interactions with your partner over the coming months.
I really do hope you get to try out this simple writing activity. If you're finding yourself stuck at any part - do let me know :)
May you argue better.
Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. Always here whenever you need. Just send me an email or even talk to me on ItAllStartsHear.SG !