The Complexity of an Argument

By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.

Couples often wonder why they get into intense and hurtful arguments over seemingly insignificant things. They usually blame their behavior either on themselves, and/or the other person. The excuses range from I had a bad week at work, to blaming the other for having a problem with their temper. Although some of these attributes may play a part in the instigation and eruption of an argument, the experience of the argument itself usually stems from past events that have a direct affect on how one feels, thinks and physically responds during an argument.

There are several factors that can play a significant role in how you and your partner choose to respond to each other during an argument. Some of those include:

One of the best ways to decrease the intensity of arguments is to know one’s self. Being unaware of the factors that may be silently and secretly participating in your behavior during an argument, increases the confusion and hurt experienced during apparently ridiculous and unimportant conflicts. Look for patterns in your behavior. What thoughts and actions seem to repeat themselves? What happened right before the argument began? How was I feeling before, during and after the argument? Why are we so defensive towards each other?

Introspective thinking, or the process of concentrating on your own behavior and thoughts, is key to gaining understanding and control over argumentative behavior that seems out-of-control. I encourage you and your partner to not only ask these questions to yourselves, but to also discuss them with each other. Sometimes, focusing on your own behavior, and voicing it to another person, can prove to be enlightening, and create intimacy with the other person (assuming they contribute equally and with a similar degree of vulnerability).

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