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Crossing the Line
Things To Avoid During An Argument

Relationships are often hard to maintain, even when two people exchange promises of undying love. A frequent problem in a relationship occurs when one or both partners continue to make the same errors, but fail to understand why the relationship is in trouble. It is as though each individual is stubbornly determined to continue to do things his and her own way, even at the risk of damaging a good relationship.

In my clinical practice, I have discovered at least 27 common errors in thinking and communicating that people make. If repeated, these errors have the potential for destroying a relationship. Which of the following errors are you making?

Robert W. Birch, Ph.D.
Adult Sexuality Educator

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Common Errors During Fighting

  • Rigidly maintain that you are always right, even when you do not have all the facts.

  • Never apologize, even when you are proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt.

  • Be relentless in rubbing it in when you are proven right.

  • Dogmatically maintain that you know your partner's motives better than he or she does.

  • Assume that your partner should understand your needs and should respond immediately without being asked.

  • Totally ignore your partner's priorities and insist on your own.

  • Operate on the assumption that your partner's sexual need cycle is identical to yours.

  • Add deep psychological meaning to your partner's sexual disinterest, and take it very personally. Then beg.

  • Do not ever admit hurt, but go immediately to the expression of anger.

  • Identify your partner's character flaws and family secrets and use them to make a point when logic fails.

  • Use guilt to manipulate, to get your own way or to punish.

  • Become proficient at catching your partner being bad, but do not ever comment if you catch him or her being good.

  • Cut no slack, yield no ground and push your argument until your partner walks out the door.

  • Do not let go of the past. Rehash your version of it as often as possible.

  • If you tend to be a clinger, cling very tightly and smother your partner, claiming that you will surly die if you are ignored.

  • Make promises, but never keep them.

  • Be factious so you partner never knows when you are being serious.

  • Always make excuses for your bad habits.

  • Insist that what you have to say is always more important that what your partner is saying, so interrupt.

  • Pretend that you understand what you partner has said, even if you have no idea of the point that was being made.

  • Maintain that having sex will smooth over an unresolved argument.

  • Be loud and stubborn. Assume that volume and persistence makes you right.

  • Assume that you can say really nasty things, and then take them back later.

  • If your partner did not hear or understand what you have said, accuse him or her of not paying attention or not caring.

  • Be a mind-reader. Insist that you know your partner's true thoughts, regardless of what he or she says.

  • Act as though you do none of the above and it is your partner who must make all the changes.

Rules For Effective Fighting

  • Together, identify the central issue and stay on it. Deal with just one thing at a time.

  • Don't argue over little details.

  • Do not accuse your partner with "you" statements. Make "I" statements.

  • Don't assign blame. Blame stirs a defensive attitude, so negotiate as equals.

  • Don't every attempt to shame. Guilt trips eventually stir anger and backfire.

  • Never ever attack your partner's character or personality.

  • Don't keep score. No one is "always wrong."

  • Don't lecture.

  • Listen carefully to your partner's perspective, and do not interrupt.

  • Don't pass judgment on your partner's perceptions or feelings.

  • Don't clam up when the going gets tough, and don't walk away.

  • Don't take seriously everything said in anger, but listen for what is important.

  • Be very careful with your expression of anger, as great damage can be done.

  • Direct any anger toward what it is that you are really angry about.

  • Attempt to identify your hurt and talk of it before allowing your pain to turn to anger.

  • Do not yell. 17. No name calling.

  • Behind every question there is often a statement. Do not ask the question, make the statement.

  • If you must ask, do not ask a question you already know the answer to. No one likes being tested.

  • Maintain respect and unconditional positive regard.

  • Do not save up issues and then, long after the fact, bring them up in an argument.

  • Work for mutual understanding, compromise and forgiveness.

  • Devote more time to reaffirming your caring than to trying to settle your differences.


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