The Best Way To Win An Argument With Your Partner
If relationship counselling is done well, you and your partner should accomplish one thing: improve the way you relate to one another.
As a couple therapist and imperfect husband to an (almost) perfect wife, I want to do one thing for you (my theoretical client) – I want to teach you the best way to win an argument with your partner.
I know that, for some of you, going to couples therapy is not something you want to do.
For a lot of couples, I’ve written how one or more partner may not be interested in seeking help with their relationship.
If you or your partner can’t or won’t go to couples therapy, then read on because this little bit of advice can be just as helpful (if not more so) than therapy – especially if you have to force your partner to go.
I also understand that, if you’re unlucky, going to couples therapy may have only given you a greater understanding of your problems, without providing the solutions to fix them.
Indeed, that would be disappointing.
That’s why I want to offer you a solution.
And this solution is an easy one at that.
But, while this solution is easy to understand, it is not necessarily easy to build into your repertoire of tools to use when engaged in an argument with your partner.
Thankfully though, with a little bit of practice and understanding of the theory behind it, you’ll come to use it effectively to win those arguments with your partner.
My basic belief about relationships
I believe that we all have the potential to build a better relationship.
I also know that that we can do that on our own.
So, with that in mind, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re hoping for a little bit of advice that you can take home and start using today.
Well, here it is.
Here’s my advice that will teach you the best way to win an argument with your partner.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll know how tiring and utterly disheartening it is to be locked in a battle with your partner.
There is nothing else in the world I would rather do less of than be engaged in a bitter argument, like the regular ones we used to have on Friday nights.
Since my wife and I share much in common with most couples – including the fact that we have regular arguments – it became vital to me that at least one of us learn to win an argument so that we can get on with our day.
Now, I’m not saying that I was always the one who would win the argument.
In fact, my wife is very adept at winning arguments, too.
But, that said, for us (and most couples) it can be extremely helpful if one partner can get started with winning the argument.
I realize that you’re probably asking, “But, isn’t it the point to not WIN a fight with your partner? Shouldn’t you both find a way to win and feel good about our disagreement and the resulting reconciliation?”
Theoretically, yes. You’re right.
We should always find a way for arguments or disagreements to end in a win-win situation.
But, please don’t fret.
When I say that I win, I really mean ‘we’ win. Yes, both of us.
Understanding Systems Theory
How do we both win if one partner starts winning the argument?
That’s easy to explain.
You see, as a practicing marriage and family therapist, I believe in family systems theory – which is the concept that we exist in a family system in which both of us (our partner and ourselves) play a role in the functioning of that system.
Essentially, we shoulder the responsibility equally for how our relationship functions.
Most importantly, though, is that in a family system, when there is a small or subtle change (by one of the partners) the whole system changes.
Think of it like one of the greatest basketball teams of all time: the Chicago Bulls from the Michael Jordan era.
Now, imagine that Michael Jordan became injured during a playoff game – would the team go on to win the NBA championship with the same amount of ease as they did six times between 1991 and 1998?
It’s likely that, without Michael Jordan (or even Scottie Pippen), the Bulls may not have won as many championships.
Even though the rest of the team was also exceptionally talented, and Michael Jordan couldn’t have won on his own, taking one key player out of the system means it doesn’t function as well.
Now, the reverse is true.
What happens when an injured player makes it back onto the court?
The answer is, the team improves.
When one part of the system improves, so too does the whole team. That, in a nutshell, is systems theory.
Since you and your partner exist in a family system, you have the power to effect change in your relationship and work towards the main goal: improving the way you and your partner relate to one another.
The Best Way To Win An Argument With Your Partner
Given how systems theory works, only one of us needs to make a small improvement in how we argue or disagree with our partner to improve the family system.
So, how do we go about doing that?
How do we make a small improvement so that our relationship improves?
Pay attention here: I’m about to teach you a method that is simple, yet requires a certain amount of effort to put to practice.
When you find you and your partner locking horns, stop and do this one thing.
In mid-sentence, I want you to pause, take a deep breath, and no matter how ‘right’ you are and ‘wrong’ your partner is, I want you to utter the following words:
“My role is…”
Yep, that’s it. Easy, isn’t it?
Three small words
Can these three small words really change the course of an argument?
Yes! Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Yep, it’s unbelievable.
But, it’s easy to understand, if you allow me to explain.
I didn’t say that it was easy to do.
But, the three small words of “My role is…” are in fact easy to utter.
Now, I promised to give you advice on the best way to win an argument with your partner.
So let me tell you why the words “my role is” are both effective at winning an argument but also leave both partners feeling good about the reconciliation of the argument.
Taking Responsibility For Your Role
If we go back to family systems theory – the idea that two people equally share responsibility for the way a relationship functions – then we’ll see how the words “my role is” are effective at winning an argument.
I want you to imagine what happens when you smile at a stranger.
Chances are, they smile back.
That’s cause and effect.
So, if we apply the concept of cause and effect to our relationship, how do you suppose our partner will respond to our effort to shoulder our responsibility for the cause of our disagreement?
How would our partner respond to our effort to point the finger at ourselves and away from our partner?
You may have already guessed it: our partner might do the same.
Yep, they may utter back to you, “Oh, thank you for acknowledging that. But, I think my role was…”
Here’s how it might look
Meredith: “But you always forget to hang up the wet swimming gear and then it’s soaking wet the next day when I need it for the kids!”
Jonathan: “But you could just as easily have hung it up when you saw it!”
M: “But… but… okay… my role is, when I saw the wet swimming gear lying on the back deck, I could have hung it up myself.”
J: “Oh… so… my role is, I could have made sure I hung up the wet gear when we got home, but since things were chaotic, I should have remembered to go back to it later rather than leaving it overnight.”
M: “That’s okay, I really could have hung it up myself rather than stepping over it ten times this evening.”
J: “I appreciate that, but really, I took the kids swimming, I should have been the one to hang it up.”
M: “Well… thanks for acknowledging that. Next time, I’ll just hang it up if I see it.”
J: “And I’ll do better at hanging it up right away.”
See how quickly and easily it can turn things around?
I believe both partners in a relationship are inclined to follow the principles of humanistic psychology, which regards individuals as naturally inclined to fulfill their potential and maximize their personal wellbeing.
Essentially, we choose improvement and as such seek out betterment in our lives and those of our loved ones.
So, if we as individuals are inclined to positive personal growth, then it stands that, when one partner takes responsibility for their role in the relationship, so too will the other partner.
Hence the beginning of the game of one-upmanship.
It’s like apologizing for a mistake and having the other partner apologize back.
When we shoulder responsibility and take our share of the blame, it is highly unlikely that our partner won’t do the same.
So, to wrap up, I urge you to give it a try.
The next time you find yourself locked into a bitter argument with your partner, use the words, “My role is…”
It won’t be easy the first time, and it’s likely you’ll frequently forget to use them (like I do).
But, if you and your partner can talk about the importance of taking responsibility for each of your roles in your relationship, I know you’ll be well on your way to building a better relationship.
I also know that when you do, you will accomplish the all-important task of improving the way you and your partner argue.
Indeed, with a little practice, you will come to master the best way to win an argument with your partner – and hopefully they will, too.
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About the Author
Jonathan Van Viegen is a full-time online therapist and relationship coach helping adults and couples improve one of the most important relationships in their life – the one with their partner. Jonathan’s approach has helped 100’s of clients struggling to maintain a lasting, loving relationship while navigating the challenges of parenting. Jonathan’s goal with this blog is to offer you a behind the scenes look at his life to show that it is possible to create the kind of relationship you desire – using simple skills that anyone can learn.