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While conflicts between partners are a normal part of relationships, excessive arguments could suggest sensitivities or emotional needs that are not sufficiently understood in the relationship, or inadequate communication skills.

An argument carries a negative connotation and is often associated with the damage or loss of a relationship. This constitutes a very difficult experience for partners, which could result in anxiety due to the lack of sufficient human skills to navigate through this experience and bring about disconnection in the relationship. Instead, arguments can be an opportunity to sharpen understanding between partners and learn through emotionally corrective experiences. Partners can develop important relationship skills such as listening and perspective-taking skills through arguments. Many people who have been through arguments also learn multiple creative ways on how to deepen connections with their partner. 

However, couples should visit a relationship counsellor if the conflict results in ongoing psychological distress for one or both partners, when there are certain unresolved topics and trigger points that are significant, or if the conflict turns into physical, sexual harm, highly criticising and contemptuous behaviour.

Read on as The Open Connections relationship counsellor Deepika shares 5 ways to approach arguments with your significant other healthily!

1. Do not pursue an argument that has taken a defensive tone

When our partner defends himself/herself with phrases like, “I didn’t do that”, “it was not my fault”, this repeats itself and many people stay in the loop of this defensive stance. This tone typically leads to nowhere useful and ends in a massive amount of frustration. In this situation, it is much more useful for one person to stop the argument by saying something like “I think we are both defensive right now, this may not be a good time to speak. When we have cooled down, we can make it a point to listen to each other.” and making the effort to speak and listen after cooling down. 

2. Use words that connect to your partner’s limbic distress

Do not resort to providing facts and logical analysis of the situation. To protect one’s own point and stance in an argument many partners do this in the hope that the partner would absorb the facts and relent. Instead, use language that connects to what your partner is going through. What is important to understand here is that our brain and nervous system in many cases responds from a 'Fight’ or ‘Flight’ state which overrides rational thinking. It is far more effective, to begin with phrases like “I see that you are distressed. We could be having a deep misunderstanding here.” These can go a long way in changing the tone of the conflict.

3. Do not equate a person’s behaviour to a character trait

In the heat of the moment and due to lack of skills, many couples fight dirty. This refers to attacks on a person’s self rather than their actions. An example of this would be saying, “you are such an uncaring person. You only care about yourself and don’t care about how much I need to do.” instead of “I don’t appreciate how you keep forgetting to clean the dishes. It is very exhausting for me to have to do this on your behalf for a lot of days.”. The first is an attack on the sense of self of the person which does not lead to greater intimacy and connection while the latter elaborates the struggle of one partner and allows the other to reflect on what they can do to improve the situation.

4. Avoid being too agreeable without reflecting on one’s personal values and capacity

This happens a lot when one couple moves very quickly into a “Fawn” nervous system state in their body. In order to diffuse the situation, one partner can very quickly give up on pursuing the conversation. This can result in a lot of compromise of important personal values and overpromising things that one partner may not be able to deliver. An example would be not agreeing to the same social stance but giving in to the other to keep the relationship or holding a busy schedule but not communicating that he/she may not be able to accommodate the partner’s plans. A healthy relationship requires two people who are actively reflective about what is important to them and trusts that the relationship can handle the differences. And if we often feel that it can’t and the conversation will turn sour, then it is worth considering professional input to see if we can exist in a healthier way in this particular relationship. 

5. Taking a curious stance rather than holding onto our assumptions

This response typically results from our tendency to operate from a lack of awareness. We organically tap into our memory reserves in the brain to make sense of our partner’s behaviour and we confirm that what we think and feel about them is accurate. This can be a very lethal response in an argument because we are not “accepting influence” and making space for our partner to change our minds. In an argument, maintaining a curious stance and using creative questioning tools can allow us to shape and reshape and sharpen our understanding of our partner which strengthens the intimacy. 

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Featured Contributor: 


Deepika is a registered relationship counsellor and body-based psychotherapist. She completed her Master Degree in Social Science (Professional Counselling) from the Swinburne University of Technology. She is also a certified Family & Systemic Therapist and currently pursuing her certifications in a body-based approach to psychotherapy. 

Deepika has consciously chosen to develop her expertise in the area of the mind-body connection and in relationship counselling. She firmly believes that the connection we experience with our physical bodies, the quality of relationships we are in and our connection to our environment greatly determine our mental health and quality of life.  Drawing from her training in family and systemic therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy & body-based psychotherapy, Deepika has worked extensively with individuals, couples, parents and children to empower them to improve their connections and live within more fulfilling relationships.