I think that I coined a new term in one of my recent therapy sessions: Reverse Argument
Many couples argue at one time or another. Some more than others. But arguments can be healthy, especially when each person communicates their thoughts/feelings and their mate listens intently trying to understand their point of view. Then the other partner gets a chance to express their point of view and voila, understanding, and most often, compromise occurs. Key ingredients: trust, confidence, awareness of your own weaknesses, a desire to listen, kindness, effective communication, emotional expression, and love.
Others argue poorly. There are many examples of dysfunctional arguments:
1. One partner communicates what they feel and the other says, “I don’t care, deal with it” or “It’s not my problem, it’s yours.” The conversation is over before it even began.
2. One partner yells while the other cowers in fear of conflict and says nothing. One is aggressive while the other passive.
3. While one argues, the other is only thinking of his/her retort to defend their hurt ego and most likely yells back. Either way, neither are truly listening.
4. Or, how about the couple where both yell at the same time and nobody is heard, nobody wins in this situation, and both parties walk away even more upset then when they started. Resentment builds, distance grows, feelings are hurt. Hopefully, yelling and arguments don’t turn emotionally or physically violent.
Even though the last few examples of arguments can be quite dysfunctional, there is one similarity: words are used and expressed (either by one or both partners).
“Reverse Argument” occurs when nobody says a word, the argument is reversed inward and stays there. Reverse arguing is still a form of arguing – it’s just kept inside your mind and heart. The issue(s) are completely avoided, although still very much present. Non-verbal communication is most often used when reverse arguing takes place (stiff body language, cold shoulder, rolling eyes, pursed lips, etc.). Fear takes over, as does a desire to avoid any conflict (at least outwardly) and nothing gets accomplished. One day a blow up might happen, or maybe it’s just a mountain of resentment that builds. Again, not helpful. What you feel is and should be important to your partner. It should also be important to you.
What type are you? If you see yourselves in any of these dysfunctional or “reverse” arguing situations, there is much hope. Seek help from a qualified therapist who can help you both see your responsibility in the dysfunction. Yes, you both have 100% responsibility. There are many self-help books that you can read together and implement the techniques towards healthier communication. Even if only one of you has a desire to attend therapy, a good therapist will help you learn new techniques to break the dynamic you and your partner are stuck in. If you can change one part of a whole, the other part must automatically change. We never know if it’ll be for better or worse, but it will change. You have choice, you have control, so do something different in order to make things better.