The Monogamist: How To Win An Argument
I was so pissed off yesterday. My boyfriend (er, fiancé…but Amelia has already addressed why that’s the worst word ever) had to help some friends move. He called to tell me they were done and he’d be leaving in a half hour so we could hang out. Two hours later, I’m killing time watching reruns of Project Runway I’ve already seen and I’m starting to get a little mad. After my text of “Where the hell are you?” and his response, “Eating pizza” that was it.
Instead of exploding, I just got mega passive-aggressive. I work from home. It’s me and the dog all day long, so on the days when people who have real jobs don’t have to be at work, I get excited by the prospect of actual two-sided conversation. But rather than explaining that, I just ignored him when he finally showed up. Which, I’ll admit, it immature and not at all proactive, but it’s like I couldn’t stop myself. I was too annoyed to be rational and I figured that if I was going to feel isolated, so was he. Finally, I yelled. And he yelled back. Then split to take the dog for an hour-long walk. When he got back, we weren’t speaking. Now, relationship experts will tell you to make sure to stay on point, be prepared to compromise and other sorts of things in order to argue effectively (and if you want some actual advice on that, you can get it here), some of which I do think is valid, but most importantly, I think you just have to let it happen the way it’s going to happen because when you’re in that sort of state, it’s nearly impossible to step back and think about crafting sentences with “I” statements rather than be accusatory. Hell, you want to be accusatory—that’s why you’re mad in the first place, because your partner did something annoying.
It’s after the argument that it’s time to step back and really think about what you said and go through a mental State of the Relationship, when you’re calm and rational again. If you’re arguing about the same thing all the time (say, trust issues), that needs to be addressed (like, with actual counseling). If you’re arguing about little things all the time (the dish rack always being full), that definitely needs to be addressed (and the one who never empties is may never empty it so addressing that might mean just learning to live with being the person who puts all the dishes away). And if you’re arguing about big things all the time (the fact that one of you comes home smelling like strip club four nights a week), then you probably need to break up.
As for us, we went to see a movie and in that two hours I had to cool off, I felt better about the situation. He was tired and hungry from moving boxes, he didn’t realize that much time had passed, etc, etc. I get it. And he understood why something that seemed fairly innocuous made me so upset. And I think we’re good now and we’ve moved on. It’s not really about the arguments specifically because the State of the Relationship is more than a single isolated incident.