Anatomy of an Argument

We see that certain someone from across a crowded room. Our eyes meet. We get the courage to approach them and say, “Hello.” One thing leads to another and suddenly we are in love. The world is a beautiful place. Life is good. Then, one day, the perfection is shattered, an argument breaks out. Then another, then another. What is happening to our wonderful relationship? Why are things going wrong? How can it be stopped?

Between people that genuinely care about each other, the first blow in an argument, the first “hurt,” is almost always completely unintentional and generally goes undetected. The second “hurt,” or the “defense,” is also usually unintentional, although generally is noticed. Now, when we get to the third “hurt”, or the “retaliation”, that one is usually quite intentional and is very easily noticed. The fourth “hurt,” or the “point of no return” is always quite intentional and always noticed. Then the argument either ends with one person retreating or it continues with each side dealing purposely hurtful blows until both parties are quite badly injured.

Guy: Hey hon, are you ready to go? (No harm intended, he just wants to know if she’s ready.)

Gal feels like he’s making some sort of accusation and defends herself with: Keep your pants on, I’m almost ready! (A defense that means no harm but does have the intent to get him to back off)

Guy feels flat-out attacked and gets angry and retaliates by throwing something intentionally harmful her way like: If you wouldn’t have so many clothes, it wouldn’t take you so long to get ready!

Gal becomes convinced that his original question, about whether or not she was ready, was his way of saying that he thinks she has too many clothes and now she’s angry that he never mentioned that before tonight, right before they have to leave. She tries to end the discussion by saying something devastating like: You know what, I am ready, ready to go out without you, that is! You can go to your stupid work party by yourself tonight, I’m gonna call Cindy and go out with her instead!

Guy who is extremely hurt by her statement and very confused saves face with the only thing he can think of: Well, that’s just fine because Melissa’s gonna be there tonight and maybe she’ll get to the friggin’ party on time!

The end. A simple question with no malice intended just set a couple down a destructive path that may lead to infidelity and, consequently, the end of the relationship.

When you find yourself in an argument with the one you love, stop talking and start thinking, and go back to the beginning of the discussion, before it was out of hand, and look for those first few “hurts”, the ones that no one meant, and clear up the confusion without letting things get so far out of hand that the relationship cannot recover.

Comments are closed.