Arguments and Self-Care

By engaging in self-care, we can create the conditions necessary work out conflict and arguments with family and friends.

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In the previous post, Zach Brittle began his Relationship Alphabet series with “A is for Arguments.” He believes that arguing is an essential part of any healthy relationship. According to Dr. John Gottman’s research, it is critical for partners to learn to overcome disagreements. Disagreements are inevitable. The way that a couple works through them determines the outcome of their relationship.

The role of self-care

Here’s how self-care factors in.

For a healthy relationship, partners must learn to identify and express their emotions including anger. However, Dr. Gottman found that 69% of conflict is perpetual. That means the outcome of all of this emotional expression and identification can get you no closer to a resolution.

Zach notes that everyone has agency. It is within your power to make choices in your arguments. You can infuse them with positive intention and perspective and express kindness and humor.

It can be tricky to feel sufficiently in control to make healthy choices. It’s very hard not to feel, as Zach says, “subject to the whim of the moment.” It’s easy to feel helpless.

However, the truth is you are not helpless because you are not your emotions. You have the ability to alter your experiences of conflict by engaging critically and empathetically with your feelings, and thoughts. You exercise this ability through mindful self-awareness. This ability looks like noticing flooding and practicing physiological self-soothing.


Self-awareness equips you with the skills to recognize the messages your body sends such as I am overwhelmed or I need a break.

Listening to these messages allows you to determine, among other things, when an argument has the potential to be constructive or not worth having.

Not listening to these messages predicts negative outcomes.

When you are out of touch with yourself, you can fall out of touch with others. You risk growing so distant from your partner that you forget how to connect and even how to argue well.

By engaging in proactive self-care, you can create the conditions necessary for deep, mutually fulfilling connections with yourself and all your loved ones.

Learn more about effective conflict management through the Relationship Coach.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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