How to Argue with Your Lover

Kim Lachance

“It’s important we communicate and tune the fate of this union to the right pitch.”

-- Rapper Common in the song “The Light”

You know the routine: You’ve got a bone to pick with your significant other. You utter the ominous “We need to talk.” So you talk. And it’s all good -- until someone says the wrong thing in the wrong tone of voice. It doesn’t matter that it was an unintentional foul. Pandora’s Box flings open anyway, and it’s on. Tempers ignite. Insults fly. And feelings get hurt. Your little discussion has just mushroomed into an all-out feud.

It’s scary, but this is the type of scenario that comes to mind for many of us when we think of arguing in an intimate relationship. So many times, seemingly petty disagreements boil into deal-breakers, ending in bruised egos, break-ups and divorce -- all because of a failure to communicate.

Let’s face it: No two people will agree on everything all of the time. Even soul mates fight. Not all disagreements have to end badly, though. Believe it or not, there are ways to argue without getting angry and permanently damaging your relationship, and they’re not as tacky as you might suspect.

“Ideally, an argument does not have to be hurtful; instead it can simply be an engaging conversation that expresses our differences and disagreements,” says therapist John Gray, Ph.D., whose relationship rescue book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus has sold more than 7 million copies in the United States.

What's All the Fuss About?
It’s a given that all couples argue (even if they don’t like to admit it). Status -- whether you’re married or not, casually living together or not, or just dating -- isn’t a factor. And, according to the experts, most of us clash over the same things, which are the Big Three: money, sex, and the division of responsibilities. Of course, you’re in a whole different ballgame if you have children together. If this is the case, you can add battling over parenting styles to the mix.

Power -- the age-old struggle to get and keep the upper hand -- is almost always the culprit behind the Big Three, says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Long Beach, Calif., and author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.

Ask a Question

Get answers from our experts and community members.

View all questions (6394) >