This is the fourth post in our “Arguing Constructively” series
When you use dirty fighting techniques to win an argument, both you and your partner ultimately lose!
Communication Patterns You Should Avoid
Here you quickly move from the main issue of the argument to questioning your partner’s basic personality, and then move on to wondering whether the relationship is even worth it.
This involves catching your partner off guard., like looking for a time when your partner is least able to respond or least expects an argument (before he or she leaves for work, or late at night, or during a favorite TV show).
Exaggerating the importance of an issue by drawing conclusions of great magnitude regarding the relationship.“This proves you have never cared about me.”
Here you avoid sticking to the original issue. You bring up as many problems as possible, and in great detail. An overwhelmed person can never communicate effectively.
This technique treats your partner like an irresponsible child – “Why don’t you love me like John loves Helen?”– making your partner feel incapable of an adult relationship rather than focusing on the issue at hand.
When your partner complains about something, this is the technique of raising a complaint of your own. “I forgot to take make up the bed? How about all the times you haven’t taken out the garbage?”
Using words like “never” or “always” will force your partner into defending his or her overall actions rather than looking at the issue at hand. “You have never done your share in our relationship.”
This dirty fighting technique makes it clear that you are not at fault and that you are simply the victim. Here, you never admit that you play any part in the difficulty and that you will never make any changes. Let your partner know that he or she is entirely at fault and that if the relationship is to get any better, it is your partner who will have to change.
This method lets your partner know that you are the expert in how he or she feels or thinks. This way you won’t have to deal with any issues at all. “You don’t really feel angry right now.” This deprives your partner of all rights as an equal.
This avoids addressing the real issues— you just avoid the conflict by saying that you bring home more money, or you have more friends, or you have more education, or you do more around the house. It assumes that there’s no need for equality in a relationship.
Whenever your partner wants to talk over a problem, act like you are the expert. You tell your partner how to act, think, and feel – and you always have the better answer. If this is ever questioned you can say that you were only trying to be helpful.
This involves using negative terms like “neurotic,” “alcoholic,” “immature,” or “paranoid” whenever you want to give the impression that your partner is at fault. It suggests that your partner is inherently flawed rather than focusing on behaviors that can change.
This means sticking with the philosophy that only one of you can win.
A qualified couples therapist, marriage counselor, or relationship therapist can help you to develop effective communication skills and teach you conflict resolution skills.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT