Is it normal for couples to argue?
It would be great never to experience conflict, but disagreements are a part of life. Even with the people you deeply care for.
But how you manage a disagreement is often a reflection of how you saw conflict managed in your childhood.
Some shout it out, some talk it through, and others do their best to avoid it.
Regardless of how you respond, in stressful situations, we naturally revert to autopilot.
So what we think we chose as a response is often just an automatic response.
You may not realise how events or patterns from your childhood have shaped the way you react in these situations.
Just pause and think for a moment.; what did you see growing up?
How were disagreements handled? Did your parents become vocal and aggressive, or did they avoid conflict and difference?
Or did one of your parents avoid conflict by meeting the needs of others and squashing their own?
The choice of holiday destinations, for example, may have been an issue of difference. This may have been resolved by open discussion and compromise, or it may have been one person surrendering, begrudgingly or silently. Either way, we learn from what we see modelled, and our responses can often be unconscious but not necessarily helpful.
I remember my husband and my first argument very well. It's usually something that people never forget. He walked away - just leaving the house - and I felt frustrated that he wouldn't keep talking it through.
When we finally talked about it, he had thought at that moment the marriage was over. I was surprised to hear this, and it didn't make sense to me. In my mind, this was what you did in marriage. Disagreements in my family meant argue it out. (Even though, to be honest, the resolution was usually more biased towards my dad's view).
But that's not what my husband grew up with… His observed pattern was usually his mum going quiet and not being able to voice her view. My husband, I later discovered, was far more like his mother in how he internalised conflict.
There is no one right way, but having the choice is the key. Sometimes addressing conflict is necessary. E.g., Your child wants to drink alcohol at a party, and they are underage. Other times it is better to pick your issues to address and avoid some. E.g., A colleague at work is struggling to perform. To assist them in making changes, you may avoid creating conflict in highlighting their obvious flaws and work towards goals instead.
When we are stressed, we are unable to choose actions. We revert to what feels safe or familiar. So, for many of us, this is what our parents have modelled to us, but, for some, it is to be as different to our parents' model as we can.
The latter may sound great if you had poor role models, but anything out of balance is not helpful. Bananas may be great but eating too many is unhealthy. Coffee with friends may feel good, but drinking too much means other things are neglected. Sleep is essential, but too much means you never get things done.
What to do?
Just as we remind kids to pause when they react, we also need space to find a thoughtful response instead of a reaction.
I learnt as a young adult to work around my dad's default position. He always said "no", so I would ask multiple times to get a thoughtful response. No, I did not always get a "yes", but it did change the balance.
The pause is not intended to avoid the conflict but to allow yourself space to see what is steering you.
If we are avoiding conflict or are always addressing conflict too readily, it is not healthy.
The key is recognising that sometimes the answer is found in letting go and stepping
aside to let another's view take precedence, and other times it is in standing up in a
situation and letting your voice be heard.
Balance is found in pausing and choosing the reaction.
Action to make change
If you find you are unable to pause, just realise this is how strong the programming is within you. To avoid conflict or to embrace it can be, for some, a case of survival. When balance is not there, and a conscious effort has not changed your behaviour, you owe it to yourself to find help.
This is what I do. My job is to help identify and shift these responses. The conscious and unconscious tools I use quickly and easily change well-entrenched behaviours.
Ring me for a free 10 min discovery call.