Well, here I go again talking to and about couples and relationships. I truly believe families are the foundation of our society and when it comes down to it, happy couples are more likely to have psychologically healthy families. So this one is to healthy families…

Arguing and conflicts are part of life. All couples will have arguments, but if they Argue Smart they are more likely be navigate these conflicts effectively and thoroughly. I believe most of us (individuals and couples) can benefit from seeing a counsellor at some point in our lives. I also know that many people (too many) do not see those benefits yet. Maybe they just don’t have the time or the resources to afford it. So for those who are struggling in a relationship and unable to get support, here is a post that could make a difference.

In 2016, The Gottman Institute wrote about how to make arguments worse, and what NOT to do. I loved the idea of pointing those out. I mean couples have conflicts no matter what, that’s what people do, especially when you share a life together. You will disagree and you will argue…you could, however, argue ‘smart’. I have been thinking about it for a while, so I got inspired to share some ideas and strategies to make arguments a bit more ‘efficient’ or ‘friendly’.

Note of caution: ALL couples ARE different, this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.


In healthy relationships, partners feel empathy, fondness and admiration for one another and Gottman cannot repeat this enough. Even Brené Brown talks about this in her book. If you think your relationship is lacking any of these, then those are your focus. You can do this using love maps, non-stressful conversations, etc (If you need more details on this, email me). When these are present, the focus of the argument is the problem instead of the problem being your partner.

Learn how to argue: Many believe that happy couples never argue or have disagreements. I cannot emphasize enough how wrong that perspective is. Every couple has differences and conflicts, happy couples just know how to sort through those differences. The goal is not to stop arguing. The goal is to learn to argue in a thoughtful manner. We need a space where we can safely share our needs and concerns. A space where our vulnerabilities are respected. Both parties should feel heard and more importantly without using any of the four horsemen (contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Be aware of your own hangups

It is my experience in working with couples that rarely, the reason for the fight is the real reason for the fight. Most times, the reason for the fight hides in attachment patterns, emotional injuries, and even childhood traumas.
It might sound crazy but it is true. We all have hurts and experiences that mark us. If we are not aware of how those experiences are playing a role in our relationships, we are bound to repeat the patterns of behaviour that lead to the same arguments. They might hide behind a trivial issue that will make us bang our heads against the wall wondering “Why are we bickering about this?”

Are your partner’s actions remind you of something you experienced as a child? Is your partner triggering some unresolved issues for you? Freud said: “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier and unexpected ways.” Is this what is happening with you and your partner? Do your arguments start because you feel hurt, uncomfortable, ‘invisible’, etc. but you are not sure why? If so…you might want to think about where it is actually coming from. It might have nothing to do with your partner or with your relationship.

Learn to separate arguments:

Many times when couples argue, they start quarrelling about one thing and move through a whole range of issues. It starts with a towel left on the ground, then it moves to how their children are disciplined and ends on last week when someone did not mention that they were coming home late. Does this happen to you? When you have a problem discuss that problem. Yes, sometimes, things are linked but try as hard as you can to address only the issue at hand. Call your partner on it: ‘Hun, let’s go back to the present topic. Can we talk about whatever else is bothering you right after? It is about not getting distracted. It is all about efficiency really.

Listen to Understand not to Respond

Sometimes we get caught up in ‘being right’ instead of reminding ourselves that the relationship is the priority. Needless to say, the first one does not generally have a happy ending. When you argue, are you waiting for your partner to finish talking so that you can bring your opinion forward? Instead of listening carefully to what your partner has to say, or trying to put yourself in her/his shoes, are you thinking about what you are going to say next? Believe me, it is more common than you think. We do it with our kids, with our parents, even at work sometimes. Improving our listening skills takes effort and awareness but it is so worth it. A quick Google search on ‘listening skills’ will offer you an array of strategies that could change the way you communicate with your partner and possibly your relationship.

‘Talk fair’

Bear with me…I am trying to use a play on the words ‘play fair’. Don’t shame, don’t use name-calling, don’t be offensive; basically don’t use vocabulary that could lead your partner to think that you believe she or he is a horrible/unlovable person. It might feel good in the moment but it will cause damage that could become irreparable in your relationship. I know it is hard to control what we say all the time but this is a good moment to use mom’s advice “If you do not have something nice to say…say nothing”. A good trick to avoid this is to address the behaviour rather than the person. For example instead of saying “you are so messy” try describing what you see “I just don’t like this mess”. It is less aggressive and it provides the other the possibility of changing the behaviour.

So…that’s pretty much it…

Oh no, wait, one last thing. Be very careful with blaming. When you blame your partner…are you protecting yourself from being seen…from your own mistakes or faults…for your involvement in or with the issue? Try putting the problem in front of you two rather than in between the two of you. Tackle it together; it might be uncomfortable but if you are both on the same page, it will increase intimacy and trust.