top of page

Are you mindful enough to argue?

Romantic relationships. We hate ‘em. We love ‘em. But most importantly, we hate ‘em. Maybe that is just me and I shouldn’t rope everyone into this by saying “we.” Why would I say this? Well, relationships are filled with arguments. No? Is that just me again? Ok, well…even if not filled will arguments, it is one piece of the puzzle and bound to happen at some point. You’re bringing together 2 different, grown, opinionated, and experienced individuals with different backgrounds, interests, and perspectives. Arguments are inevitable and working through them is healthy.

Buuuut, that doesn’t always happen. People develop negative patterns that are maladaptive and lower the chances of a successful relationship (though maybe these negative patterns feel satisfying to the individual, at least momentarily). Examples include people that completely shut down or choose violence. Neither of these are conducive to healthy relationships and both are forms of abuse (emotional and physical – neither of which are acceptable).

This is why I want to talk about arguments in relationships today. Hopefully by the end of this, you can rethink how you approach conflict in your own relationship. I imagine both you and your partner would be grateful for that.

So what is this magical, new perspective. Well, it is neither magical nor new. It takes work, but in time it can become second nature. And it is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. I am talking about mindfulness.

The more we can be aware of the present moment, the better people are at arguing (in general). I will say up front that this could also mean that people that are better at arguing may be more mindful (as in, it could go either way), but I will entertain the idea that the researchers had in my examples below (please also check out the visual abstract and write-up for more details on this research article).

What I will do below is walk through examples on how mindful people (compared to less mindful people) may approach arguments (according to science).

Example #1a – a nonmindful argument with conflict engagement

Person 1: Hi. You left the toilet seat up…again. Why can’t you learn anything?

Person 2: Hi. Why can’t you look before sitting?

Person 1: It’s just common sense to always leave the seat down.

Person 2: Someone smarter would look before sitting.

Person 1: I literally hate you.

Person 2: Welcome to the club.

Example #1b – a mindful argument to counter conflict engagement

Person 1: Hi. You left the toilet seat up…again. Why can’t you learn anything?

Person 2: Hi. [takes a moment to self to understand what their partner is feeling and to take a breath] Ok, I can hear that you are disappointed and frustrated. I am sorry.

Person 1: It’s common sense to leave the seat down.

Person 2: I hear you, but it can be hard to fully take in your message when I am being attacked. But, I understand. In the future I will be mindful of this.

Person 1: Ok, thank you. I mean, it’s not all that bad. But can you please…?

Person 2: Yes, I will.

And just like that, crisis averted! Something that didn’t need to be a big thing was allowed to not be big thing.