Welcome to Sex and the Campus, a weekly column where I discuss all things love and relationships. It should be noted that I do not claim to be any kind of expert in either area. Dating is hard, but hopefully reading this column won’t be.
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This week we’re talking about fighting fair. All relationships come with arguments, but we need to learn to do it better…
All is fair in love in war, right? Wrong. Love makes us do crazy things, yes, but we are always held responsible for those actions eventually. Every relationship you have will come with disagreements — whether it’s between you and your parents, your friends or even your significant other. It’s proven, however, that how we “fight” will directly impact the health of our relationship. If you’re constantly calling each other names or going for the low blow, don’t you think that could eventually change how you see each other?
Recently I had an argument with my boyfriend. We were both stressed, life was kicking us in the butt, and then we turned on each other. The thing is, though, once something is said — or in this case, texted — you can’t take it back. I try to remember that whenever my S/O is royally pissing me off, but sometimes I forget. But I do see the difference after I’ve said something uncalled for and hurtful, and I certainly feel it when it happens to me.
No one wants their insecurities brought up in the middle of an extremely vulnerable moment with someone close to you. Most of the time the person standing across from you that’s receiving your wrath isn’t even the one responsible for it. I know how it is when life is stressful, and then your friend/parent/significant other just does that one little quirk of theirs, but for some reason this time it just sets you off. That’s called using someone as your emotional punching bag, and it’s not fair.
This generation has been stunted in a lot of ways, but none of them are more apparent than in our emotional immaturity. Most young adults have no idea how to healthily process their emotions, or how to cope with everyday life stressors. When something comes along and throws us off our game, we freak out. It’s taking us longer to grow up, and because of this we’re establishing really unhealthy habits in our relationships.
In order to have a lasting connection, we have to establish healthy ways of communicating. One of the areas that is often overlooked is how we argue. Personally, I don’t believe every disagreement has to end up in a fight. Most of the time if we were openly communicating throughout the relationship about things that bother us when they first appear, we wouldn’t just blow up all of a sudden. Sometimes, though, arguments are just inevitable. Tensions run high, and all you want is to be right — but for the sake of the relationship, we have to calm down and do it right.
The first thing we have to realize is that there is a real, living human being across from us. They are someone who’s close to you, they care about you, and you care about them. They have real feelings that could get hurt. If you think about that, you’re less inclined to say things that you know will hurt them. Second, you need to assess the situation. Is this argument really about something they did, or could there be some underlying reason why you’re so upset? If it’s the former, remember to take a breath and then calmly explain what it is that they did that upset you, and why. If it’s the latter, then you need to do a little soul-searching to see if this is really worth bringing up. Explain to your partner that you’re under a lot of stress so it’s not their fault you’re so upset, and then explain to them what they did that upset you.
Try to stay away from accusations, raising your voice, low blows and leaving without a word. Remember, you care about this person — you may even love them — so put yourself in their place; if they were upset with you about the same thing, how would you want to be approached?
Arguments are a normal part of every relationship, but they don’t have to be so scary. If done right, they can be a part of healthy ongoing communication. If done wrong, however, they can really end in some hurt feelings.
If you feel like you may not have the emotional coping skills you should, maybe check out therapy. I go every week, and will always advocate for it; everyone should see a therapist at least once, in my book. If you feel that your relationship is becoming unhealthy or abusive, please reach out to a close friend (or even to me), or the RSVP office here at USC.
Keep it healthy, ’SC.