You show me a couple that doesn’t argue and I’ll show you a couple that have never a) spoken to each other b) ever watched The X Factor or c) are inanimate lumps of flesh.
Basically, because people in general are pretty annoying (if you say you’re not annoying, then you are, yourself, being annoying, so yeah eat that), it’s inevitable that everyone occasionally has disagreements about things.
And it’s particularly true for couples, who spend lots of time with each other, thus increasing the potential to get on each other’s nerves. And, even worse, because you know a disproportionate amount of stuff about that person, you know exactly what to say in order to ramp the argument up when it becomes clear that you’re losing it.
As marriage and family therapist Hal Runkel puts it, “no one can touch you like the one you expose yourself most to, but no one can hurt you like the one you expose yourself most to.”
(This is also true if you are a flasher and you pick the wrong person in the park.)
But, as it turns out, apparently there’s one simple word which can put a stop to toxic arguments.
Speaking to the Business Insider, Runkel revealed that we all need to start adding a simple ‘ouch’ to our vocabulary.
He said: “[Try saying something like] ‘Ouch. That one hurt. I don't know if you were meaning to hurt me; I don't know if that's what you were going for; but that's what you did.’”
Runkel continued: “That conversation – which was a very familiar path, that fight – is now a totally different path because one of you chose to actually get vulnerable.
“It wasn't a step of pushing [your partner] away. It was a step of inviting [your partner] in by saying: You know what? I am open enough to you that you can actually hurt me. So now how about we talk to each other as if we actually love each other?”
All very laudable stuff. But do you actually believe it? Because we’re not sure we do. In fact, if anyone said ‘Ouch, you hurt me’, we’d spot a moment of weakness and move in for the kill by criticising both your music taste and all your stupid friends who actually are really boring, and when I said otherwise I was LYING.
Anyway, if you believe this stuff (and are nicer human beings than us), you might also like to take the advice of John Gottman, a professor of psychology who specialises in martial stability, has revealed that we need to avoid “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” when fighting with our partners.
- Criticism (framing complaints in the context of a defect in your partner)
- Contempt (name calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humour)
- Defensiveness (making excuses to explain away your actions)
- Stonewalling (withdrawing from a conversation, even if physically present)
Gottman also encourages couples to stop using the word “you” in arguments, and choosing instead to use the word “I” – and to work on their marriage each and every single day, rather than just when it is in trouble.
“Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went,” he says. “This will help to bleed off stress from the day, and stop it from negatively affecting your relationship.”
Sorry dear, we don’t think your mates are boring, we didn’t really mean it, we were just angry.
(WE DEFINITELY DID MEAN IT AND THEY DEFINITELY ARE)