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Dear Dr. Debra,

Because you know so much about communication and feelings, do you always win the arguments with your boyfriend?



Dear Curious,

I had to laugh when I read your question. The answer is an ironic “No.”

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 team. 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.

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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