Loving and then hating your partner is perfectly natural. It’s even hardwired into your brain! Research from the University College of London has shown that the same part of your brain that’s activated when you’re in love, is also activated when you feel hatred. Of course, no one likes to feel angry and hateful towards their partner, and passionate arguing or fighting can take a heavy toll on a relationship*.
The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to reduce your risk of arguing or fighting with your partner, but you will need to learn some special tactics.
Related: my husband is always angry with me
Focus on the positive
Believe it or not, arguing is a sign that there’s still something of a relationship between you – it indicates that you feel strongly enough to express yourself and try to change whatever aspect of your situation you’re finding difficult. If there doesn’t seem to be any point to expressing your opinion, it means you’ve given up and there may no longer be anything to fight for. So, to begin with, view your arguing as a good sign – you can work this out!
Discover the root cause of your arguments
While you might argue about how you spend your money, or who does what in the house, or who said what when, the real core of the argument is always something else. So if you argue about how your partner spends money, for example, it could stem from the root cause that you feel they don’t value the time you spend working or the time and effort you put in to save up the money you have.
Or it could be that the root cause is about lack of affection – your partner doesn’t show you affection but spends a lot, and so you suspect they don’t really love you. But rather than focusing on that, you focus on the spending.
Make a note of common themes and phrases
Try to make a mental note of when and what you argue about, and phrases or words that you or your partner use repeatedly. Then cut those out.
The term ‘nagging’ is based on this repetitive type of criticism and it never, ever works. All it achieves is a feeling of unhappiness for both parties. The person who criticises feels bad for nagging, and the other person feels bad for being nagged. So find other ways to address the issue.
Lose the negatives
Don’t do this, don’t do that, can sound overwhelmingly negative. So rather than telling your partner all the things he or she does that you don’t like, explain what you do like and how it makes you feel.
So, for example, spending an hour explaining why you hate it when your partner leaves the cap off the toothpaste won’t get you anywhere no matter how you do it. But if you can explain that for you little actions show you how much your partner cares and that something like putting the cap on the toothpaste brings a smile to your face, they’re more likely to try for you.
Stop in mid-sentence
This takes some willpower but once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll find it easier and the results are really worth it.
When you sense a discussion is becoming a heated argument, just stop. Simply say, “Let’s talk about this later, I can feel I’m getting angry and I don’t want us to be angry with each other.” This immediately diffuses the tension and avoids an argument turning into a full-blown row.
Chances are, you’ll still feel the anger for an hour or so, maybe more, but if you can leave talking about it until several hours later, you’ll find that your reasoning is clearer, that you can find ways to express yourself more positively (see above) and that your partner is the same.
Stop talking and listen
You probably feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you, which is why you start to raise your voice when discussing something, and then it turns into an argument. But in order to get someone to listen to you you must listen to them – and sometimes you may need to let your partner talk first, until they have finished, without interrupting! (It’s hard, but you can do it!)
This is something that therapists often do with couples – they will ask each person to express their feelings one at a time, without any interruptions from the other. Avoiding interruptions allows your partner to explain how they feel without having to respond to your comments, so permits clearer and calmer thinking. Then, once they have finished, it’s your turn.
Related: how relationship counselling could turn your marriage around
*Verbal or physical abuse in a relationship is not something you should feel you have to accept. Emotional and physical abuse is illegal and UK law and if you feel you are a victim to this kind of crime, contact a counsellor or your local police. (See Citizens Advice for more information.)