All couples fight. In fact, not arguing at all can be a sign of an unhealthy, unhappy or disconnected relationship. When neither partner has the energy or desire to patch things up, it may signal they’ve checked out of the relationship.
That said, there are productive, respectful ways to hash things out with your partner. And then there are unproductive or toxic ways to handle such matters.
We asked therapists to share the worst things couples can do during an argument so you know what to avoid next time you’re in a spat.
You try to make a major decision during an argument
When things between you and your partner are heated, you probably don’t have the clarity necessary to make a weighty decision. Instead, wait until things have cooled down before you try to come to a consensus.
“Unless you are in an immediate health and safety situation such as domestic violence, it is usually wise to refrain from making important decisions during the heat of battle, when emotions tend to run high and judgment tends to run low,” Brown said.
You bring up past mistakes or unrelated issues to deflect and distract
If you want to fight fair, then dredging up your partner’s past errors in a bid to “win” the argument is a big no-no. It’s often irrelevant to the present debate, counterproductive and can make your partner extra defensive.
“When one partner is especially thin-skinned, anxious, guilt-ridden or just can never admit they’re wrong, they may employ a variety of methods designed to put the other person on the defensive,” Begel said. “One method is to ‘throw in the kitchen sink,’ to list all the flaws of the other partner, to refer to past transgressions or to distract from the argument at hand by changing the subject.”
If there’s something that happened years ago that’s still eating at you, set aside a separate time to discuss it.
You’re more focused on being “right” or “winning” than actually working through the issue
Even in the heat of an argument, try to remember that you and your partner are on the same team. So proving how “right” you are and how “wrong” they are isn’t a worthwhile pursuit. Plus, if you’re more focused on building your case than you are on understanding your partner’s point of view, you’re not going to get very far.
“If their partner is important to them, the ‘I’m right’ person needs to take the time to listen and be open to what their partner has to say,” Lambert said. “Finding middle ground or agreeing to disagree helps a relationship to thrive while both partners feel worthy of consideration.”
You try to hash things out over text
Texting is great for sending emojis, wishing your partner good luck on their job interview or figuring out what’s for dinner. It’s not so great when you’re trying to resolve an argument because text messages can easily be misconstrued.
“You can’t hear your partners tone of voice, nor read their body language, or interpret what their facial expressions may mean,” Brown said. “This is especially true as so much of our communication is non-verbal. There’s too much room to misinterpret someone when you aren’t sitting face-to-face or, at the very least, talking on the phone.”
You’re more concerned with your intention than you are with the impact of your words or actions
In making your point during an argument, you may inadvertently say something that hurts or otherwise invalidates your partner’s feelings. Even when you didn’t intend to cause any harm, it’s important to acknowledge that he or she may have been affected by what you said, sometimes in a lasting way.
“While it may not have been your intention to cause harm to your loved one, the impact of your words or behaviors may very well have been harmful,” psychologist Jamie Goldstein said. ”When we overlook the potential for causing harm while in an argument, we further that harm through continuing to dismiss our sweetheart’s experience.”