Search

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.



Example #2a – a nonmindful argument with withdrawal

Person 1: Ok what the heck was that?! Why did you say that in front of all of my friends? That is soooo embarrassing.

Person 2: Whatever.

Person 1: What?! Come back here. We NEED to talk about this RIGHT NOW.

Person 2: I’m gonna brush and sleep.

Person 1: Oh no you won’t. I am angry. You need to explain why that happened.

Person 2: [goes into a spare bedroom].


Example #2b – a mindful argument to reduce withdrawal

Person 1: Ok what the heck was that?! Why did you say that in front of all of my friends? That is soooo embarrassing.

Person 2: [Realizes they are tired and won’t be able to manage emotions right now]. I hear that you are upset and that is understandable. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I know I won’t be able to give this topic the attention it deserves right now. Can I have a moment and then we can talk?

Person 1: Ok, well it would be good to talk about this. Maybe we can wait a little and I can cool off a bit too.

Person 2: Thank you. Let me go brush and then I will come back.

Person 1: Thank you. I’ll think about why this was so triggering for me.

Person 2: That would be great, then I can know what I did wrong in this situation or what I can do better in the future.


Voila! How picturesque. You would think I am just making this up! But, well, I am. But, also these are general principles that would occur through mindfulness.



Let me do 1 more example. Let’s make this a bigger topic as well.

Example 3a – a nonmindful argument with compliance

Person 1: My mom is coming over. Do as I say and don’t try to argue with her.

Person 2: What? You know your mom and I don’t get along. We just really don’t see eye-to-eye on racial injustice.

Person 1: No, I don’t care. She is my mom. You need to sit down, meet her, be nice, and agree with what she says.

Person 2: Fine, I will. I’ll just sit down and be quiet, nodding along with what she has to say. I hate it. But I’ll do it.

Person 1: Good. She’ll be here soon. I don’t want to hear any backtalk either after she leaves.

Person 2: Yes, fine, k.


Example 3b – a mindful argument with less compliance

Person 1: My mom is coming over. Do as I say and don’t try to argue with her.

Person 2: [Noticing that your partner is flustered but also realizing how you feel when you have to let immoral behaviors slide]. I can understand the need for peace and your mom likely won’t change, but it is unfair to me that I have to sit back and listen to say negative things about my people of my background.

Person 1: Yes, I just want peace. Can you just sit down, meet her, be nice, and agree with what she says?

Person 2: I know this is important to you, but this is also important to me. How about we compromise? I will meet her and chat for a bit. And then before any unnecessary arguments happen, I can go back to the room and take care of some work. You can enjoy your time with your mom.

Person 1: Good. That works for me. Thank you for making an effort. I know it is hard, but I think this will work. You shouldn’t have to let go of your morality just to be friends with my mom.

Person 2: Thank you. That makes me feel better about the situation and I hope we can continue working on this.


Wow. Amazing right? You don’t have to back down when it comes to such important things. You are allowed to speak your mind, especially when compliance goes against who you are.


Mindfulness helps with all of these. We all want to be heard and we all want to be good partners. Sometimes, however, we need to be mindful about how we say these messages. There is a difference between saying “I want to be heard. Listen to me!” and “This is how I am feeling. Can you also listen?”


Something implicit in this mindful approach is that, you have to take a little bit of time before responding. This is generally the difference between “reacting” and being in the same behavioral and thought patterns and “responding” which can be more authentic. There will still be emotion, but are you at least saying the message you mean to say rather than something more harsh than you mean. Or more defeatist than you mean.


With all this being said, it is of course easier to be mindful in a good relationship. If you like your partner, if you are invested in them, if they give something of use to you, then you likely will be able to be more mindful, especially during arguments. Even if you do harm them unintentionally, you can stop yourself from going to far, and make amends.


There is much more to say on this, but I think there is already so much for us to potentially work on regarding mindfulness and arguing. Try it yourself sometime and let me know if it helps!


-Alex

6 views0 comments