Sheryl and Harvey, a couple client shared their most recent argument with me. They argued about whether to sweep or vacuum their carpet.
Sheryl shouted at Harvey, “You need to vacuum the carpet to get it clean. There is simply no way you are going to get all the dirt, dust and grime out just by sweeping.”
Harvey shouted back in response, “Yes I will. I’ve done all the research and a broom is sufficient enough to get enough dirt, dust and grime out to keep our home healthy and dust and dirt free.”
This went on for several rounds, each one vehemently throwing out their bit of research proving their point more passionately than the time before.
You’re not fighting about the carpet
The thing is, Harvey and Sheryl were not arguing about the carpet.
And they didn’t even know it. In fact, almost every deep couple argument has nothing to do with whatever it is that the couple thinks they are arguing about. The arguments are however about being seen and heard by the person you love most in the world.
There is nothing more frightening or more vulnerable than feeling that the person you love doesn’t get you or isn’t taking your side.
For most of us, subconsciously, we hope that the person we choose to marry will be there for us unconditionally and just get us. The sad truth is, they don’t, nor will they.
Unconditional love, as Erich Fromm, author of the book, “The Art of Loving” is only for the parent child relationship. Something akin to infantilism.
Your partner can’t make up for your shortcomings
In a truly loving relationship, each part of the couple needs a high level of self-love and self-esteem.
They can’t expect their partner to make up for their shortcomings.
This isn’t to say we don’t still need empathy or to feel like our partner is on our side, even when they don’t agree with us.
So what gets in our way of being there for our partner?
One of most couple’s greatest fears is that they will lose themselves in their relationship.
This makes hearing their partner’s perspective scary, especially when it goes against their own beliefs.
It takes a lot of courage and trust to know that hearing your romantic partners perspective doesn’t mean erasing your own. When you take the time to listen to your partner’s perspective, your partner feels so loved and cared for. This makes them want to do the same in return for you.
In fact, the real magic comes from hearing your partner’s perspective. The more each of you takes turns listening to one another’s perspective, the more you will be able to come to a new place of mutual understanding and create a third perspective. This perspective can be even greater than the one you started with.
How to handle a relationship argument
In order to resolve arguments in relationship better, follow these steps.
- Realize there is something deeper lying beneath your argument that feels too painful to access.
- Allow yourself time to feel where the pain lies deep inside of you.
- Allow yourself time to see if it reminds you of anything.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable and share these feelings with your partner. I know I make this sound simple, and it really can be.
- It is hard and it sometimes requires help from a third party.
One of the ways arguing benefits your relationship is that it allows you to communicate your needs to your partner and helps you both grow as you are able to identify the underlying hurt.
As long as both of you argue constructively there is a scope to reach the root of the problems before they amplify. So, that’s one way of looking at arguments in relationship as a way to prevent an irretrievable breakdown with your partner.
Where the magic happens
By working with Sheryl and Harvey I was able to help them uncover what makes sharing in a vulnerable way so scary, that they could do it mutually and safely.
Sheryl discovered that she actually suffered from low self esteem and felt that her intelligence was inadequate. When she fought her side of the argument. What she was really trying to say was, ”Please hear me because I need to feel smart.”
How to have a healthy fight with your partner
Remember, you actually are on the same team.
Harvey was saying something not so different. Each were so used to people valuing them for their intelligence. When they argued about who was right or wrong, all they wanted was to feel smart and be seen by the one they love.
They probably also both want their home to be clean. But they care a whole lot more about feeling valued by the person who is most important to them.
When Harvey was able to acknowledge Sheryl’s pain and be there as she cried without judging her, she felt his presence, which was so healing. This really created the shift they both needed in order to feel loved.
When couples learn how to speak the language of vulnerability with one another, their feelings of connection shoots up exponentially.
They want to hear one another and be there for one another. This is where those magical loving and tender moments happen. Even when there is argument in relationship.
If this is something you find yourselves struggling with, feel free to drop me a line and let me know how I can help you.