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Arguing Couples and How to Try Stopping It

Val isn't playing life coach by sharing some useful ideas gathered over 7 decades of life experience and hundreds of books on human nature.

It's amazing how that sweet devotion of the dating times may turn into something sour.

It's amazing how that sweet devotion of the dating times may turn into something sour.

When love is real, it finds a way.

-- Avatar Roku

Disagreements Vs. Arguments

There is one basic difference between disagreements and arguments. When we disagree, it's important "what" is right, whereas in arguments, it's almost exclusively important "who" is right.

So it follows that disagreements have -- or should have -- objectivity for their motive, while arguments are all about an emotional discharge -- we might even call it "verbal violence".

Couples may disagree for a variety of more or less important reasons, which naturally stems from their different assessments of things, or their different tastes. Once when that disagreement becomes obvious enough, either a compromise is in order, or a complete dropping of the issue, with a fair realization that they both have right to their own opinion.

Like the old Latin proverb would say it: "De gustibus non disputabant est" (tastes are not to be discussed.)

Besides, persisting with one's own point of view always calls for additional proofs, rather than turning into a waste of time and words on merely paraphrasing what we have already said.

Just before we have reached that point of perpetuating the same over and over -- and by doing so possibly turning it into an argument -- it's simply prudent to change the subject upon realization how we have never moved from the square one.

Disagreements may actually be a good test of the integrity of the relationship, if not even strength of love, and especially respect for each other, as well as a willingness to smoothen our individual differences.

At his point it would be good to say how "marital diplomacy", that yielding strategy of "letting the other be right" may not work well in the long run. That for the reason because we may be depriving ourselves of a free expression and in the process swallowing, suppressing, that need which may accumulate inside and one day burst out into an argument.

A healthy relationship means that we are embracing the totality of the other person, warts and all, and expecting the same from our partner. No one is perfect, and we are bringing that imperfection into our relationship, feeling free to express opinions which may, or may not be wrong, but are ours. And then it's only up to us how we are handling those aspects of each other.

And then it also depends on our capacity to stop a disagreement before it may turn into an argument.

There are all kinds of intimate personal reasons why folks may get emotionally wound up during disagreeing to a point of starting to argue -- to ridicule the other's opinion, or position, or taste, all the way to name calling.

Even that famous Roman orator Cicero was quoted as advising his students: "When you run out of healthy arguments -- start insulting your opponent."

Whether he said that as a joke or not -- let historians decide -- but one thing remains for sure: that advice has been used over and over for millennia, without people necessarily having studied ancient Roman history.

Arguments are charged with immature part of our emotionality, and have nothing to do with a "healthy competition".

Arguments are charged with immature part of our emotionality, and have nothing to do with a "healthy competition".

Relationships are such that when one person changes, the relationship changes.

-- Michele Weiner-Davis

Arguments -- a Sheer Waste of Time

If we cared to stray a bit from marital issues to political debates, we would be facing exactly the same immature emotionality in a total absence of rationality invested into it.

Sometimes -- albeit very rarely -- I may amuse myself by watching just some little part of our Parliament's proceedings, merely to further strengthen my political cynicism. Again and again, I can't believe my eyes and ears seeing a bunch of educated grownups kicking the shit back and forth and getting nowhere with it.

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Well, if those who are leading the whole nation can act so irrationally -- why blame poor couples for a similar display of senseless emotionalism.

For, that's what it basically is. I am not really joking here by submitting that they might as well skip all their "reasons" for arguing, and go straight to calling each other names, which would include: "crazy", "ignorant", "incompetent", "naive" -- and at the peak of it: "stupid idiot", "moron", etc...

Now, there are those primary and those secondary causes of an argument.

The primary one may be an underlying old grudge, a hurt that never really healed -- now just getting an opportunity of an emotional discharge.

Back in the seventies, in a little book on self-help, I remember the author calling it "NIGYSOB" -- or a short for "Now I Got You, S.O.B.!" -- Or, a moment of getting even for something unrelated in the past.

The secondary one -- in the absence of the primary one -- could be just about any accumulated emotional charge, say, from a bad day at work, that idiot on the road who almost caused a head-on collision, or an argument with the old family member.

Our partner-in-love comes just as that right dumpster for those crappy emotions.

As the argument is gaining in its heat, after a short while it stops being relevant what was that initial trigger of it -- so, something that started about his "forgetfulness to fix things in the house", may end up with "her allowing her mother to decide about their next vacation".

In short -- anything will do.

What they don't see is how they are having something like a secret agreement to practice that kind of "masochism-in-duet" -- for that's what it basically is: tormenting themselves by using each other as a cause of their "victimhood".

It's not only unhealthy for the relationship, but also for their own mental health. By arguing, they are degrading that one person whom they have to face day-in-day-out.

That satirist in me might say something like -- that's why they have dogs, because dogs they train to always agree, and they can always count on that "unconditional affection"-- if not also submissiveness, which their partner refuses to show.

I happen to know a couple in which the husband says -- maybe half-jokingly -- that "her dogs are more important than he is".

But let's leave the dogs out of this story, along with that satirist in me, and let's agree how arguments are a total waste of time, and words, and energy, and peace of mind, and ultimately -- health.

Sometimes such couples may get tired of arguing; then a period of relative truce may follow -- albeit not for long, and that for the reason that the poor souls actually got addicted to it.

We can get addicted in so many ways to something that has been giving us a regular pleasure.

We can get addicted in so many ways to something that has been giving us a regular pleasure.

A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other.

-- Anonymous

Addicted to Arguing

It was that brilliant neuroscientist Dr. Candice Pert who discovered that neuropeptides -- chemical equivalents of emotions -- including also crappy ones, can fit into brain's receptors for pleasure.

In other words, if we keep feeling something bad, after a while it may start feeling good -- which explains all hypochondriacs and masochists, who "only feel good when they feel bad".

Within that frame we could easily place arguments.

As a matter of fact I used to know a couple who giggled while disclosing how their best sex was after they had a physical altercation, smacking the hell out of each other, with crying and yelling, and the whole package of insanity. And then they jumped in bed.

O.K., of course, not every couple reaches that point, but it is merely serving as an example of how pleasurable those arguments can be.

Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich, both shrinks, gave a big significance to -- respectively -- "libido", and "orgon" -- two names for sexual energy that in their theorizing was seeking its outlets in some even unrecognizable ways.

All that pointing at the pleasurable aspect of marital arguments. As couples get older, they may be converting that lost sexual practice into the arguing one, which they now do with passion (pun intended).

Then, some couples, in those periods of exhaustion of arguing might even decide to seek help from a marriage counselor.

Usually in vain, because now they just learned a few phrases how to weaponize their future arguments, going somewhat like this: "Stop treating me like I am your mother who never expressed any warmth to you! -- "Hey, I am not your father who never showed up at your violin performance"! -- "Don't you dare dump on me your insecurities!"

You got the picture -- now they just "upgraded" their arguments with some psychobabble that they picked from opening themselves up to that marriage counselor.

Well, addiction stays addiction for some couples.

Marriage may take a great emotional upgrading with the wisdom of lessons from arguments.

Marriage may take a great emotional upgrading with the wisdom of lessons from arguments.

A relationship is like a house. When a lightbulb burns out you don't go and buy a new house, you fix the lightbulb.

-- Anonymous

But Then, Some May Opt For Peace

Not every couple is doomed to indefinitely persist with that dark arguing passion.

In every marriage there is that initial period of adjustment -- of course, excepting those where both partners "clicked" with each other like hand and glove. Depending on their personalities, tempers -- but I should also include intelligence -- to some it may take longer or shorter to realize how their love should play the ultimate priority in their relationship.

So, that's all it may turn out to be for them -- a little bumpy road of initial adjustment.

For them, maybe a few additional ideas could be of help to speed up that process -- even if that "adjustment" is ending after their silver anniversary, along with their more mature and serene outlook on life.

The best way that I could think of is just to sit down and open up to each other about what they find annoying in the other's behavior -- and that in a most friendly and sincere manner, not in an accusing tone that would trigger a defense.

That way they can correct it in the name of love, not with a feeling of a "personal sacrifice". We just have to try to invest that best of us into the life with that other person. Otherwise we are insulting ourselves for being a fool for living in a bond that we don't care about.

Another good thing would be to put more accent on those things we have in common, in which we agree.

Place some more photos with the two of you from the times of dating -- or have some of them enlarged, and put them at visible places in the house. Don't keep mostly your own photos, which is sending a clear signal to him that he is taking a "second place" in that relationship.

Breaking the arguing habit is not only healthy for the relationship, but also for your own psycho-physical well being. Your body will thank you. Your whole life will thank you.

© 2022 Val Karas

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