In the midst of an argument with your partner there is no time to step back and ponder why this is happening, or to evaluate what about this disagreement is upsetting you so much.
You can rely on the fact that when any of us are reactive in a variety of ways it shows we have some old issues, we are unconscious of the real problem, we have some emotional reaction in the present that has roots in the past and of course, we are exposing our vulnerable side. An argument brings up the ways we participate in relationships. This includes the old ideas and images that may need to be broken in order for new different growth to occur.
When things get heated we tend to forget that we have been there before. Maybe as a child, in our first love break-up, and in some other losses which represent a rift in the area of relationship. We are not just having an argument with our partner at this moment, but with who this person represents to us. This brings up the idea we might have about our partner than may be not who that person really is. It is very complex because we are bringing all our conscious and unconscious personality parts into the fray.
This brings us to the fact that we are not simple beings, but are made up of many complex aspects. We argue out of frustration, desire for love, lack of connection, misunderstanding, and needs for being heard, listened to and accepted. The reasons we argue are often the very reasons we want to repair the problem – we want to be closer, we want to be understood; and we need love and support.
By listening to ourselves and our partners, we learn something beyond merely who is right and who is wrong. Instead, the argument becomes a means to expand the relationship from its crossroads into even more intimacy. We learn to respect viewpoints other than our own. We learn that we have needs and that we must learn how to communicate our emotions. Unless we do, our partner will just not get us.
Therefore, the disagreements become not wreckages, but are places from which we can emerge stronger than before. Our interactions have meaning. When they are openly explored and with each other, they take on a different form. It is not that arguments will automatically forever cease, but that they occur because something within each of us and within the relationship wants understanding and growth. These can be seen as the mini-crossroads that makes our lives stronger; having weathered a bit of the storm. Therefore, we do not have to be perfect, or never argue to have a viable relationship.
We can use these times of separation and frustration to take a step back and then move forward into each other; and fully comprehend how and why we continue relating together. We can sharpen our skills for listening to each other. And, we can hear into the emotional needs so that the next time, the essence of our relationship becomes the focus and the argument the signal to come closer and explore more; rather than back off.
Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D.