Navigating The First Argument
New couples are bound to hit a rough patch at some stage and the first argument can be relatively traumatic on the back of a blissful honeymoon-phase. Our guest shrink provides some tips to help buffer the impact of your first feud:
Do Not Ventilate to Loved Ones
When your partner upsets you the temptation to engage in a colossal bitch fest with your bestie or work colleague is palpable. In the short term this can be highly cathartic and validating, probably because your chosen recipient is likely to side with you. In the long term it can cause irreparable damage. We know that first impressions are extremely potent and very easily destroyed, so it is essential to ‘stop’ and ‘think’ about how slagging off about your future spouse to loved ones – potentially before they have even met – might negatively impact that relationship for a long time to come. Ask yourself why you are disclosing this personal information and what you hope to gain from bitching about your partner or their actions. For example, do you need to hear someone confirm you are in the right? Are you fishing for a second opinion to substantiate your belief that you are too good for them or they are a good-for-nothing jerk? You could consider writing an unsent letter and tearing it up or burning it instead.
Don’t Just Do Something – Sit There!
A lot of the time when there has been a full-blown domestic, couples react. They scream, throw things, fire off from the hip, dredge up old arguments, walk off and ventilate to anyone in earshot about the injustice. Couples forget the basics of communication, which involves sitting down and talking about it. This might seem easier said than done, so here are a few things to consider.
Reflect on the Function of the Behaviour
More often than not a barney erupts because someone feels pain and hurt and launches into self-protection mode – the fight or flight response. The ‘walls go up’ and the person withdraws or they attack. Trace back to the beginning of the argument and try to put together a chain of events leading up to it. Share this with your partner and try to get on the same page. Most people are not inherently bad or malicious. Chances are they are hurt and do not know how to express this to you, so listen actively and try to help them sort through their emotions. For example, “John, I’ve noticed you’ve been quiet since I talked to my ex at the party. Is everything okay?”
Reflect on Whether the Person was Doing Their Best
Everyone has personal strengths and are equipped with certain resources for managing day-to-day living and usually these are taught or modelled by our parents. Some people are naturally going to be better problem-solvers than others and some will be more sensitive to criticism and feeling wronged than others. Part of getting to know your girl-or boyfriend is to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and to appreciate them wholly as an individual. Just asking, “were they doing their best given their strengths and limitations?” can quickly take the sting out of a potential brawl. For example, if your date gets blind drunk at a party and says something embarrassing to your friends, stop and think about why she might have gotten drunk in the first place. Was she trying to be fun and fit in with your friend group in order to make you like her? Was she really anxious about people not liking or accepting her? If you are not sure, ask her.
The Bear would love to hear stories about your first argument with your partner. Hit us up!