Relationships are some of the most frustrating, rewarding things we are capable of as people. We can have loving, heartfelt moments as well as bitter and hurtful moments.

One thing that happens in any relationship is arguments. When two people from two different walks of life come together, there is going to be some differences of opinion and that can actually be a good thing. Arguments are necessary for growth, and letting your feelings on uncomfortable topics be known. They aren’t any fun, but they aren’t supposed to be.

However, they aren’t supposed to damage you either. An argument should never be excessively loud, violent, or angry. So how do you have an argument with your partner, so that nobody loses?

There are three V’s to communication: Visual, Verbal, and Vocal. If you are having a healthy, constructive argument you will be mindful of all three V’s and how you are implementing them.

The first V, Visual refers to body language.

The majority of our communication is non-verbal, and we are often saying a lot more (or less) than we intend to because of it! If your words just don’t seem to be coming across right, check your visual presentation. If you have crossed your arms out of defense, uncross them. If your lips are pressed tight, relax them. Face towards your partner. Make eye contact.

All of these are important visual cues that say you are not a threat, and you want to help and be helped. Body language is a tricky part of arguing, as it can be hard to control or even notice consciously but it makes a big difference.

The second V is Vocal, which refers to tone and how you say things.

If your tone is soft, non-threatening, or neutral your argument is going to go a lot better than if you get loud, sharp, or threatening. What you say is impacted much more than you might think by how you say it.

Imagine saying the words “I am going to the store.” Pretty vanilla stuff right? Now change the tone of those words, make them angry. It did not change the words any, but the tone changed the perceived action.

If your partner said those words to you in a neutral tone, you probably wouldn’t be upset, but in an angry tone? That’s another story. Same rules apply for arguments. So keep your tone in check. Getting loud also tempts us to make personal attacks or get explosive, which is definitely something to be avoided.

The third V is Verbal, which refers to the actual words you are saying… and yes Virginia, sticks and stones might break your bones but words are very hurtful!

Being careful of the words you say is incredibly important, especially if you don’t want to accidentally create any lasting damage. Because you can.

Try to only talk about the issues at hand when arguing, even though it might be tempting to bring up old wounds. Also it’s a good idea to make sure not to use ‘Always/Never’ statements as these are accusatory and unhelpful.

On the topic of Always/Never, it is never a good idea to interrupt your partner when they are speaking. Let them get their thought out, wait patiently, and respond carefully. Remind your partner that even though you might not love the toilet seat being up all the time, you do love them.

It is important to maintain awareness of your relationship while you are arguing, because a fight can often set you up in opposite corners of a mental boxing ring. Nobody is there to referee except the two of you, so whistle blow if you feel like an issue is getting out of hand and take a break from the match.

So that covers how to argue itself, but what about when and where? If you are sitting at Olive Garden and your partners excessively loud chewing reminds you that you need to talk about public manners, don’t bring it up while it’s happening. Ask them gently to meet you later in neutral territory.

Try to avoid having an argument on ‘personal ground’ i.e. their space or your space as this can make both of you feel like there is a subconscious power struggle.

Never bring in anyone else on your arguments as this creates chaos that will quickly get out of hand for everyone involved, and makes a mess that is no fun cleaning up.
Make sure there are no distractions, so once you have committed to having an argument that call from your mother will have to wait. Cellphones, TV, Laptop, all off until it is mutually agreed that your discussion is over.

There, that wasn’t so bad was it?

A constructive argument should make you feel like progress was made. Even if you aren’t feeling glowingly positive, you shouldn’t be in the depths of despair and anger either - not for long, at least.

After your argument, suggest that the two of you do something you enjoy, which can be done separately or together. Take a while to relax and take care of yourselves, then take care of each other. After all, there’s a reason you’re arguing in the first place - and hopefully that reason is love?