Is it Arguing or Reaching Out?

When you are in the middle of an argument with a loved one, it is difficult to see what is going on from an observer’s perspective. Imagine yourself in an argument: what is it like for you? Are you yelling, getting angry, frustrated, trying to prove your point, or defending your position?

According to the Gottman Method, 60% of arguing is perpetual. This means that, most likely, five years from now, you will be fighting about the same thing you were fighting about five years ago. It might be he won’t help around the house, or she won’t stop nagging me, or his chronic introversion. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going away.

Arguing, no matter what form, is a type of emotional bidding. Imagine that you step out of the argument while it is happening. Look at both people arguing. It could be about whose turn it is to do the dishes (or whatever your most common perpetual argument is). What are you really saying? Think about this for a while.

Are you saying: I am here, and you are not seeing me? I am doing the best I can, give me a break. You don’t care about me as much as I want you to. I need you to care about me. Stop putting me down. Please support me. Why don’t we have the connection we once had? Arguing is a type of emotional bidding in a fallacious attempt to feel connected.

While being the observer and paying attention to the argument, you begin to get to the core of the problem. It’s okay that you don’t know exactly what is missing in the relationship or perhaps what void you are trying to fill. That is why you seek mental health counseling. What you will realize is that the fight is not about whether or not the dishes got done.

What can be done? In our relationships, you need to take time out to appreciate what you loved ones mean to you. Think of it like servicing your car. You have to give to it, to keep it running smoothly. You need to provide it gas, change the oil, run diagnostics, and change the tires. What would happen if you never serviced your car?

Ask yourself these questions: Are you giving to your relationship? How often do you check in, in a non-judgmental manner, on how they are feeling about the relationship? How often do you do things to help without being asked, and without expecting praise? Separate yourself from the argument, pay attention to the emotional bidding, choose your battles carefully, and remember, you don’t have to be right to be happy.

Catherine G. Cleveland is and mental health counselor and owner of Cleveland Emotional Health. Catherine specializes in the treatment of trauma and chronic pain. For more information go to: clevelandemotionalhealth.com

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