Arguing in any relationship is normal. This is something bound to happen between any couple because we are two human beings with two different opinions. You may agree on things, but there will come a day where you don’t. This disagreement can lead to miscommunication and someone’s feelings get might hurt. We can become defensive, and start to lose control of our emotions. You must remember that depending on how you argue in your long distance relationship, your behaviour can lead to choices that are not fair to your partner, no matter how upset you are.
The one insecurity that every couple in long distance relationships share is ‘the disconnect’. A lot of our relationships thrive off of modern technology like cell phones and computers; to talk, chat through instant messenger, to Skype, and email. You could go old school, and write letters too. But with the lack of physical closeness, you rely on these forms of communication to reach out to your partner.
Often talking through text or instant messenger can lead to statements being taken out of context, which is why we recommend to alway phone or Skype call your partner to make sure there were no misunderstandings. But deep down in our long distance relationships we all fear (or have feared), that one day someone can get upset and cut off all ties of communication and you’ll never hear from them again.
As easy as it would be to turn off your phone or log off of your computer, you’re not doing any good to your relationship by abandoning the true issue. If you’re currently in a long distance relationship (or were once in one), you’ll know more than anybody, that because of the miles between you and your partner you have to be even more open in communication that most close proximity couples.
Our relationships are kept afloat mostly through open and detailed conversations. Because of the distance we have to learn how to be more descriptive in our communication style to make up for the lack of physical closeness. So if you find yourself knee-deep in the water of a heated argument, please remember these 7 steps before you disappear on your partner for even a second!
1. Immediately Let Your Partner Know That You Need Some Quiet Time for a Bit
Know your own feelings and communicate them. To be mad is a natural emotion, it doesn’t mean you’re bad person. It’s essential that you get in touch with your own feelings before you handle a dispute. This will help you understand what prompted these feelings in the first place, and keep you from making mistake of acting out as a result of your feeling in the heat of the moment. Taking some time for cooling-off-periods like going out for a walk, or engaging in other physical activities will help dissipate your pent up emotions. When I do this, it allows me to filter through my thoughts, and will allow me stay on track with the primary issue when I return in a better emotional state. This can be as quick as 10-15 minutes, or over an hour depending on the severity of the issue. When you’re ready to talk let them know by calling them back or messaging them to initiate the start of your conversation again.
2. Have Empathy for Yourself And Your Partner: (Don’t Hit Them Below the Belt!)
Never use anything sensitive your partner has revealed to you about themselves against them. This is something they confided in you because they trust you and value your relationship. In the thick of things, if you attack your partner with their weaknesses that they shared with you in confidence, you’ll not be given that confidence easily again as they have to learn to re-build their trust within you. Criticise the issue, not your partner. Be responsible for your own feelings and express yourself, because playing the blame game will not get you anywhere.
3. Stick to the Subject
Using this argument to stack on problems from earlier disagreements or disputes is not balancing your dialogue. When numerous issues start to accumulate, you should be making the effort to discuss these as they occur. If you have any un-resolved issues, settle them on another day. Keeping score and using previous ammunition is not fair. This person is your partner, someone you chose to be with because you love them. Even if your partner is wrong, all them the dignity of their own self-respect. Arguing is not a “win” or “lose” battle.
4. Speak Clearly and Not Camouflage the Issue
Make sure your approach is specific and clear. Being vague doesn’t help your partner out. If they wanted to play guessing games they’d find a way to go onto Jeopardy and compete there. The yes to express yourself in conversation is to say ‘I feel’ instead of saying ‘I think’. Example, “I felt hurt when you said I can’t do anything right”. Use descriptive words to explain your feelings and never interpret.
5. Clarification and Feedback: Don’t Assume You Know How They Feel
One of the worst things you can do is tell your partner how they feel in the moment. Understandably some arguments can get very tense. Slow the conversation down. Listen to your partner and let them tell you what is going on in their mind. Use the feedback loop technique to confirm you understood what they were trying to relay. For example “What I’m hearing you say is that when I told you ‘you can’t do anything right’ I offended you, is this correct?” Allow your partner to respond to your viewpoint and they can confirm whether you understood them accurately or not.
6. Implement Changes
Honour the process. Follow anger with a reasonable, and straightforward request for improvement or change in however the argument was brought on. Each of you needs to be very clear as to what you both need to improve on through behaviour modification. In example with my relationship, when ever I get upset, Chris and I have agreed that I will communicate to him that I need to calm my thoughts down, and he will wait to discuss the issue with me when I’m ready. Instead of the old instances where I kept silent, and he kept pushing for answers.
7. Don’t Go Telling the Neighbourhood
Turning to your friends and family to lean on after a dispute, looking for empathy will get you advice that feels right. “I cannot believe your boyfriend treated you like that” or “She doesn’t deserve a guy like you” hearing those words will certainly make you feel vindicated. You’re right, and your partner is wrong. But in time what will happen is this support group of yours will start to seek you out and ask “what did that idiot boyfriend/girlfriend do to you today?” They won’t be able to see you get hurt any longer. While it may be comforting for you to see these people love and care about you, you have created a backfire by solely relying on them.
Discussing all of your relationship issues with your close friends or family puts them in a position of skewed perception. Because they only hear your side of the story, that is all they know. The allegiance they share with you blinds them from understanding the context within the issues that have been building up over time. Meaning they could fail to see how it could possibly be part of your own actions that initiated your partner to behave in these undesirable ways. This is because you might be unaware of your own contributions as well!
It’s completely reasonable to want to reach out to friends and family when you have arguments with your partner, just remember when you do, that they’ll naturally take your side! The more hush-hush, wrong-doings your partner does and your support group knows about, the more they will start to feel negative about them, and detest your relationship. To prevent having your friends and family become biased, try to speak with someone not as close to your inner circle, or even consult with a professional like a therapist to help get you through it.
Bonus: Take It From Me!
Learn how to grow from your arguments. Remember when you do fight, that this is somebody you love, therefore don’t hold grudges. Don’t waste a fight by not learning from it. Problem solve together and find compromise. The more you are able to work through these issues, the stronger your communication will be together, and the fewer heated arguments you’ll have. We all make mistakes and have misunderstandings. Love is a safe place.