One Simple Way to Reduce Arguments with your Partner

08 November 2015

Frequent arguing is a common reason that couples seek counseling.  They are tired of arguing. They are tired of not feeling heard or understood and want to make it better.  Many turn to self-help books and online articles for information and there is certainly plenty of out there. The problem is that too much information can leave you feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how or where to begin.  So you end up doing nothing.  But there is hope. There is one small change that you can make on your own that can make a difference in reducing arguments and therefore improve your relationship.

The stage can be set for an argument with the very first statement you make in a discussion with your partner.  When you have an issue to bring up, you are often angry or frustrated.  This makes it difficult to bring up an issue or concern in a way that doesn't come across as critical. For example, you see that they have not done the dishes after numerous requests and reminders from you.  You can feel the frustration coming on and bring up the issue with “I can’t believe it!  You didn’t do the dishes! You never do anything to help around the house!”  As you can imagine, your partner is not going to respond with a simple “I am so sorry, I got tied up on a phone call. I’ll get them done in a few minutes” but is going to become defensive and respond back with an angry statement.  You in turn are likely to become more frustrated and before you know it an argument is off and running.   The solution is not to avoid the issue, but to wait until you have cooled off to bring it up.  Once you are in a calmer state, you can address the issue but bring it up in a gentler, more neutral tone.  Relationship expert John Gottman calls this gentle start-up.  His research shows that happy couples are more likely to use gentle start-up when bringing up an issue with their partner and that it reduces the likelihood of an argument. Our example of not doing the dishes using gentle start-up becomes “I noticed you haven’t done the dishes yet. I was really hoping they would be done by now. Are you able to get to them soon?”  This is more likely to get a less defensive response from your partner and the two of you can have a conversation about the issue without it escalating into an argument.   

So the next time a situation comes up, I encouage you to try using a gentle start-up and see what happens.

Bina Bird, MA,. LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving Haslet, TX and the surrounding DFW areas.  Learn more about me at or call 817.676.8858 for a free phone consultation.  My specialties include couples, preteens/adolescents, and women's issues-infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, postpartum and other life transitions. 

Disclaimer: The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. Reading articles and content on this website does not constitute a therapeutic relationship.  

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