Dear Dr. Debra,
Because you know so much about communication and feelings, do
always win the arguments with your boyfriend?
I had to laugh when I read your question. The answer is an
To be truthful, I don’t consider arguments to be about winning
or losing. I’d settle for having my point of view and my
feelings understood by my boyfriend. (Hence the laugh.) He
tends to have a difficult time understanding my feelings when
he has a different viewpoint. But we are working on it, and
he’s getting better.
However, I try to avoid arguments in two ways. The first is by
communicating my thoughts or feelings before they build
up into a big problem, backed by intense negative emotions.
The other is by letting go of little annoyances and focusing
on the positive things about him and the relationship. I find
that when I cultivate an attitude of gratitude and love, I’m
happier in the relationship, and so is he. When this happens,
even our “discussions” are minimal.
This is not always easy. It takes mental self-discipline to
drop negative thinking and focus on gratitude.
If I’m really upset about something, then I need to process my
emotions. I figure out where the feelings come from, decide
what my part/responsibility is, what I need to talk to
him about, and how I can do that in the calmest, most
effective manner. Then I either wait for the right moment, or
I talk to him the next time I see him.
The idea is to have discussions, not arguments.
Early in my grad-school years, one of my professors, Marcia
Lasswell, author of No Fault Marriage, said something
that impressed me, and that I’ve never forgotten. She said
that a relationship problem isn’t about one person being wrong
and one being right. Instead, there are many ways of
viewing a situation. The idea is to understand each
person’s position, even if you disagree.
It’s important to remember that you and your partner are a
To be a successful team, you both need to win.
Otherwise, if one wins and one loses, you both lose, because
one is left with “loser” feelings of hurt, anger, frustration,
resentment, dissatisfaction, etc. You both need to adopt a
win-win attitude rather than win-lose. Sometime
this means compromise, and finding a way that each can receive
at least part of what they want, and each gives up a little.
But both leave the conversation feeling heard and understood.
Not always easy, but always worthwhile.
Feel free to
write me with your questions.
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist
who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.
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