When is your next argument scheduled? I often ask this question of couples, but it also applies to families, co-workers, friends. You argue the most with the people closest to you, and most of these arguments follow a fairly predictable pattern. I know, I know–you don’t plan these arguments. But maybe you should.
I’m assuming you already know with whom you’ll have your next knock-down-drag-out. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s likely that person. How often you tend to butt heads with that person? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Whatever the frequency, if you’re being honest, you can more or less plug your next argument into your calendar. And what script will this argue follow? I know issues can seem very complex and convoluted–especially those you’ve been round and round about over the years–but both you and your “scene partner” probably have very specific roles to play. Maybe you’ll open the scene by saying,
“You’re never here with the family. And when you are here, you’re not really here. You’re lost in your electronics or thinking about something else.”
Your partner pinches their brow. The camera moves in for a close-up.
“Why would I want to be here?” your partner responds. “You’re always critical, always nagging, always wanting me to be someone that I’m not. You knew who I was when you married me.”
Improvise around these themes for a few hours, throwing in some name calling, a few threats to leave the relationship . . . and scene.
Predicting your next argument forces you to be aware of the underlying pattern.
Try to be aware of the predicament you’re in. You know this argument is coming, you know it isn’t going to go anywhere truly new or resolve things–yet you also know you’re a sucker for this familiar script. If you have to play it out, you have to play it out, but ask yourself this: The feelings you have during such arguments–feelings of frustration, of helplessness, of not being heard–have you encountered these elsewhere in your life? Growing up, did you feel this way at times when you argued with your siblings or your parents? Most of us keep having the same argument, over and over, in relationship after relationship, that we’ve been having since we were young children. Arguments about independence, fairness, honesty, individuality, priority. What core issues are you trying to work out when you visit this same subject again and again? Are there alternate ways–maybe ones that don’t even involve your scene partner–you might address these same longstanding tensions?
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.