Fight Less, Love More: Avoid Relationship Arguments with These Excerpted Tips

| December 11, 2012

FLLM-coverDumb arguments; we’ve all had them. Admit it! It begins with an argument over whether it’s called a yacht or a boat and before you know it, it escalates into something else and then you’re not talking to each other for two days. Well, fret no more. In her book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, lawyer and couples mediator Laurie Puhn explains how and why many of her clients “have these foolish disagreements with their partner but don’t realize it until” it’s pointed out to them that they’re having a dumb argument. An excerpt from her book below reveals two common types of arguments couples often have, and how to avoid them.

The Dumb Premature Argument
Hector and Maria live in an apartment but hope to buy a house someday. Every time they visit a friend who lives in a house, their drive home provides ample time for squabbling about whether they should buy a ranch-style home like the one Maria grew up in or a two-story colonial like the one Hector’s family had. They argue vehemently about the pros and cons of each style, but the silly thing is, they aren’t planning to move out of their apartment until their toddler is ready for kindergarten, at least 3 years from now. Even if they managed to argue their way to a decision now, in all likelihood they would have to reargue the same issue in 3 years anyway, because people’s preferences, incomes, and family situations change over time.

The Wise Tactic
If the outcome of any argument can’t be acted upon for a long time, it’s a dumb premature argument. As much as you might want to voice your side now, you’ll only be wasting time and energy—and adding unnecessary conflict to your relationship. When you realize that you’re arguing about something that doesn’t need an immediate decision, it’s wise to short-circuit the fight by saying, “Why don’t we wait to have this discussion until we actually need to?” In the case of Hector and Maria, one of them simply needs to say, “Why are we wasting our time arguing about this now? Let’s make a pact not to debate our design preferences until we’re actually ready to buy a house!” This will give your partner the ability to retreat gracefully with a comment like “That’s a good idea. I don’t know why we started talking about this now anyway.”

The Dumb Factual Argument
My husband and I were driving to a 99¢ store to buy some party supplies. I mentioned, “You know, a lot of these so-called 99¢ stores charge more than 99¢ for many of the items they sell.”

“Not possible,” he said. “All 99¢ stores sell everything at that price. That’s why they’re called 99¢ stores.”

“That’s not true. You don’t know because you haven’t been to one. The 99¢ thing is just a way to get more people into the store,” I explained.
“Why would they call it a 99¢ store if it’s not one?” he shot back, still trying to convince me.

“Wait a minute,” I blurted out. “This is a dumb argument. We’re arguing about a fact. Why don’t we just hold on for 10 minutes, get to the store, and we’ll have our answer?” He agreed, so we shut our mouths and found the answer in the store. (I was right!).

The Wise Tactic:
Have you ever found yourself getting agitated because your partner says you’re wrong when you’re sure you’re right? Or have you found yourself trading “It’s true” and “No, it isn’t” until you’re both blue in the face? Those are all familiar set-up words for the dumb factual argument. Instead, when you are bickering about a fact like an address, a name, or a statistic, recognize this and say, “Hey, we’re arguing about a fact. Let’s just find out the information instead of fighting about it.” In less than 5 minutes, you’ll have your answer and avoid an argument over nothing.

The 5-minute Conversation: Short-Circuit a Dumb Argument

Admit Your Error
Switch gears as soon as you realize you shouldn’t have picked this foolish battle. Recognize that you are engaged in a premature argument or arguing about a fact, or any of the other common tiffs I discuss in my book Fight Less, Love More. Then, hold up your hands as if to surrender and admit your error with a simple comment that identifies why you’re having a dumb argument. For example, you could say, “Wait a second. I shouldn’t have said that. This is silly because we are having a dumb argument about something that’s a fact.”

No Buts About It
If your mate doesn’t want to short-circuit the argument and tries to continue with a comment like “But just let me explain,” let him or her talk and then short-circuit the potential argument again by saying, “Well, that could be, but there’s no point in debating it.” Just keep up that response and your partner will eventually have to let the argument go.

The above is an excerpt from Laurie Puhn, J.D.’s relationship help book, “Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change a Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In” (Rodale, October 12, 2010).

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