In this article, the author discusses the importance of healthy communication in a relationship and how it can prevent negative behaviors like emotional eating and substance abuse. The author provides a list of guidelines that couples can follow to have constructive disagreements, including agreeing to disagree, giving each other time to process what was said, actively listening without interrupting, avoiding bringing up past arguments, refraining from keeping score, being honest and direct without using profanity, avoiding using the word “divorce” unless it is meant seriously, and using “I” instead of “you” statements. By following these guidelines, couples can improve their communication and strengthen their relationship.
When I was in my first serious relationship, I explained to my girlfriend that although we never argued, I expected we would eventually. So let’s discuss how a disagreement should be when it happens. That way, when it did occur, we would communicate effectively and prevent our disagreements from escalating into a worse conflict.
To have healthy communication, we don’t have to agree on every point; healthy communication is open communication. Keeping things in, only to have them explode outwardly later, is a very abusive way to communicate. Part of relapse prevention is to avoid eating over emotions and emotional responses to how others communicate with us. Setting boundaries and guidelines can prevent communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. Below is a list of healthy ways to communicate between two people so abusing food or substances can be diminished.
(1). We agree to disagree. When we express differing viewpoints, we don’t have to agree, but we need to understand that we can keep our own thoughts and opinions about how we see things. We may disagree, but we still respect each other, and I’ll consider what you told me today if you don’t mind doing the same. What makes the world such a colorful place is the many differing views we can have that were shaped and molded by our individual experiences. We will respect each other’s opinions and viewpoints even though we may not agree.
(2). Let’s give each other time to process what we say. After a disagreement, we should consider what’s been said and process it to be okay with what we communicated. If one of us is quiet after a discussion, it doesn’t mean we’re mad at each other. However, no two people process information the same way at the same time. Some need to talk about it often, while others need to be more introspective to process an issue.
(3). Let’s finish talking before the other tries to interrupt. Stop and listen to what we are saying before jumping in and cutting the other person off. Listen actively: When we speak, let’s give each other our full attention and try understanding each others perspective. Don’t interrupt or dismiss our concerns, and ask questions to clarify anything we don’t understand.
4). Let’s stay on topic and not bring up past arguments in this discussion. Whatever we discussed in the past should have already been dealt with, resolved, and over. Bringing up what we may have done in the past is irrelevant to what we discuss today. It’s challenging to process and deal with a current issue if we constantly bring up previous wrongs. Let’s agree to deal with problems individually and not bring up past hurts.
5). Let’s agree to not keep score with each other. Keeping score causes a battle between two people to see who has made the most mistakes over the months or years, which unfairly positions one of us above the other. Being human means we both make mistakes, and we agree that once a mistake has been discussed and dealt with, there’s no reason to keep score.
(6). We promise to be as direct and honest as possible, even if the truth hurts. We also promise to express our hurt with kindness, sincerity and not with profanity. Meta-messaging is when a person sends the message of what’s bothering them under the message. It’s a passive-aggressive way to figuring out what’s being said. Instead of saying exactly what’s bothering them, the person will find small, petty ways to tell us what’s wrong instead of just saying it. Some people engage in meta-messaging because they feel unsafe expressing anger and upset in the relationship. This often stems from feeling judged or criticized while trying to express their anger when they were in a different relationship. An example of a meta-message could be asking your partner a question in a sharp tone that sounds angry. Then when they ask, “are you mad?” responding with, “no, why would I be mad?” When in fact, they are mad. This leaves the other person sensing something is wrong but unable to know what it is.
(7). Let’s never to use the word divorce during an argument unless we really mean it. Using the term divorce will threaten our sense of security and create fear that the relationship isn’t going to work. It’s a form of emotional blackmail that causes the other to feel like they walk on eggshells so they won’t leave them. Let’s express our thoughts, feelings, and emotions without feeling our commitment to each other will be in jeopardy.
(😎. Let’s try to have disagreements using the word “I” instead of the term “you.” When someone says, “you do this” and “you do that,” we feel attacked. But when we drop the word “you,” we remove the attack and allow the other person to see how their actions or words affect us. For example, saying “when it was put that way, it made me feel like I let you down.” Verses, when you always do that, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me.” Resolving issues is much easier when two people agree to talk using a less attacking communication style.
Arguments between couples can be very emotional and intense, and emotions like anger, frustration, and resentment can quickly take over. When you have rules for how to argue constructively, you can help reduce negativity during a disagreement which often leads to stuffing our feelings with food or drinking to obliterate thinking. Rules for arguing can encourage respect between you and your spouse, even when you disagree. Setting clear expectations for communicating and controlling emotions during an argument can help ensure that both feel heard and valued. Arguments can quickly escalate into destructive fights that can damage a relationship. By having rules in place, you can help prevent this from happening. Ultimately, the goal of arguing with your spouse should be to resolve issues and improve your relationship, not damage it.