Most people don’t like arguments. I don’t blame them. I didn’t like them either. I grew up watching my parents fight like cats and dogs, without ever seeing them resolve their conflict. This experience made me allergic to arguments.
On top of that, I learned to shut up and get out of the way, as to not give them ammunition to take out their post-argument anger on me.
Such experiences over my childhood years conditioned me to numb out my feelings, be “good”, and focus on my parents’ feelings and needs instead of my own. I knew that even if I had any needs, they wouldn’t be met anyway, so why bother voicing them.
Some of you may be able to relate. During your upbringing, you’ve learned to please and appease others and tuck away your own feelings. As an adult now, you still operate the same way, even when not necessary. This was the way you learned to decrease stress and stay safe. Today, it has become a habitual survival instinct.
In relationships, you don’t know how to deal with conflict in a healthy way. The moment your partner (or anyone for the matter) gets upset, you freeze. You go into panic mode where you just want them to stop being mad.
You say what is necessary to make them happy or you go quiet. You withhold how you really feel (if you even know how you feel) and never assert your needs because it’s too risky. It’s a hard way to live.
As an adult, I’ve learned to reparent myself and heal these childhood wounds. Here are some shifts in beliefs that helped me reconcile my fear of arguments.
1. Arguments aren’t that terrible.
In fact, they can be the gateway to greater intimacy and closeness. By understanding and working through your fear of arguments, you can develop skills and tools needed to have a healthy disagreement.
Moreover, when you have these skills and tools, you’ll learn to lean into arguments more, resolve issues in a calm way where both partners feel heard and understood. This repetitive way of approaching conflicts eventually becomes the new norm of resolving differences.
2. Conflicts are inevitable, even in healthy relationships.
Every couple fights, period; even healthy happy couples. It doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.
The difference between couples who thrive and those who barely survive are not the conflicts, in and of themselves, but the couple’s ability to successfully repair their disagreements.
When you develop ground rules for fair fighting, you create a safe environment where both partners can be open and honest about how they feel and what they need.
3. Your partner is not your parent.
When you get triggered by your partner (or anyone) being upset or angry, it’s easy to go on autopilot and react from that place of survival. Before you go there, PAUSE. Remind yourself that your partner (or whoever the other person is), is not your parent.
Second, remember that you are not that powerless little kid anymore. You have the authority and right to speak for yourself and assert your needs. You will not be punished or scolded for it.
Third, your partner will respect you more if you are honest and tell them how you really feel instead of either pretending everything is okay or being passive-aggressive. You’re teaching them how to treat you.
Bottom line, don’t mindlessly repeat the past. Be a cycle breaker! With courage and self-compassion, you can heal the past, by providing yourself a corrective experience in your present relationship, so that you can carve a healthier and happier future for yourself and all your relationships.
This is the power of a good argument.