How to Stop Arguing in a Relationship

Few days ago I wrote a post where I shared the idea that I have chosen to operate from to avoid arguments.

The idea is that my wife and I are on the same boat or the same (relation)ship so arguing with my (relation)ship mate can only cause the (relation)ship to sink even further.

Well, while this idea is nice on paper, there are times in which heated arguments do happen in my relationship and the ship metaphor flies out of the window.

Usually I am hardly the one who initiates the argument, as I am a rather peaceful person.

My wife comes from a culture where people are a little more mainit ang ulo or hot-tempered than the average Westerner so arguments do take place despite my best intentions.

LEAVE THE SCENE IF POSSIBLE

It has been said that it takes two people to have an argument so an easy way to avoid arguing would be removing myself from the situation and going somewhere else to wait for the storm to pass.

But, as it has also been nicely said, sometimes you cannot avoid the storm and you have to learn how to dance in the rain.

There are many circumstances in which I cannot simply leave the scene of the argument and I have to face my wife’s upset head on.

Because, as I said, Filipinos are very emotional they easily and quickly jump to wrong conclusions if I come across in a way that triggers their emotions so it happens quite often that I do or say things that are not inherently wrong or offensive but come across as such.

My natural tendency was to prove myself right and my wife wrong by defending and justifying so the argument would go on forever.

I have discovered two very effective ways to deal with my wife’s strong emotions and face her upset head on when there is no possibility to run away from it by going somewhere else.

JUST LISTEN WITHOUT DEFENDING OR JUSTIFYING

Arguments occur when she attacks and I defend or counterattack instead of just listening.

If I try to clarify what my wife said and immediately respond to her no one is listening and what we are doing is that we are arguing, even if I may have good intentions for trying to clarify.

I have noticed that if she attacks and I abstain from defending myself and making her wrong and just allow her to let off all of her steam I can aikido her lashing out.

The art of aikido is a martial art that consists of rendering the “opponent” harmless.

So by abstaining from responding I am creating an environment where the anger fizzles out instead of going on forever.

I just allow her to vent without interrupting. It doesn’t matter if I am right and she has completely misinterpreted my behavior. I just allow her to let off steam until she eventually stops. I don’t need to physically remove myself from the situation, I just kind of aikido her anger.

APOLOGIZE FOR THE IMPACT

However there are circumstances in which she won’t stop arguing until I have given her an answer.

In this case the best strategy is to apologize for the impact, not for what I did wrong, if I am convinced I was right, but rather for how I have come across to her. In Tagalog that would be “sori para sa dating sa iyo” (“I am sorry for COMING ACROSS that way”).

I must admit that sometimes that doesn’t work either because it sounds to her as a form of subtle blame, as if I were trying to say “it is not my fault, it is yours because I did or said the right thing but you misperceived it.

SOMETIMES ARGUMENTS OCCUR NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO

So, whenever my wife feels the urge to argue I try, if possible, to go somewhere else.

If this is not possible or practical, I try to aikido the argument by either trying to listen without interrupting or trying to let her know that I am sorry for my impact.

But there are times in which no one of these things work.

I cannot leave the scene because she wants to talk, I cannot just let her vent because she wants an answer and if I apologize for the impact she says that it was not just the impact but I did indeed say or do things with the wrong motive.

So what I have learned is that eliminating arguments for good is not possible in an intimate relationship.

The reality is that arguments do occur no matter what I try to do.

But what I can do is do the best I can to minimize them and, over the past five years, arguments have drastically diminished in my relationship.

I am aware of the fact that my wife comes from a culture where the average Filipino is more emotional than the average Westerner so I remind myself that she is doing what she knows how to do given the environment she grew up in.

I would love to be in a relationship in which there are no arguments and I would love to ditch arguments for good but this is not possible.

But I am happy because, by applying the methods I have mentioned in this post, I have been able to minimize arguments a lot and contribute to create an amazing environment in my love life.

The “Palalo” and “Pakikipagtalo”: Arguing and Debating Among Filipinos

Political propaganda in the Philippines is often done by means of giant “karatulas”

As husband of a Filipina one of the things I have noticed about Filipino people is that they become very emotionally charged when discussing about religious or political topics and, more in general, when they are convinced that they (or their family) is right and someone else is wrong.

FILIPINOS ARE HIGHLY EMOTIONAL

One of the things that I have repeatedly mentioned in my blog is that Filipinos easily get carried away and lose their cool.

A popular Tagalog expression for this tendency is mainit ang ulo, which basically means that many Filipinos are rather hot-tempered.

I have written an article about how to deal with a Filipina who is mainit ang ulo and has buwanang dalaw (menstruation): when these two things occur simultaneously a Filipina’s husband really needs to hide (or go out to walk his dog….or have a Red Horse beer…or two).

So Filipino people are leaning toward high emotionalism and, therefore, when they discuss a topic, whether this happens in family relationships, in politics or in religion, they can become very palalo or mahilig sa pakikipagtalo (inclined toward arguing).

FILIPINOS TAKE IT PERSONALLY

Filipinos have a strong sense of hiya or shame and so, when someone proves them wrong, their amor propio or self-esteem gets seriously wounded.

I once heard a very interesting expression: “the religious person wants to argue while the”spiritual” person wants to share”.

Speaking of religion and spirituality, there is an interesting passage in the New Testament that says that “the slave of the Lord does not need to fight but to be gentle toward all”, so, even from a biblical perspective, there is no point in arguing.

Now, whether you are spiritual or not, religious or not, my point is that it is not about WHO is right but, rather, it is about WHAT is right.

What’s the point of proving someone wrong? The point is simply to gloat over the fact that one is right while the other is wrong and what’s the use of that gloating? Can one pay the bills with it or eat it for breakfast?

And yet Filipinos take things very personally and often get completely carried away.

ONCE FILIPINOS HAVE INTENSELY ARGUED THEY EASILY FORGET ALL ABOUT THE ISSUE

What I have noticed in my interactions with my wife or with the extended family is that a discussion may get very intense and, after a short while, fizzle out and be followed by a peaceful massage with Omega Pain Killer or Efficascent Oil (two ointments that are very popular in the Philippines and that kill all kinds of pains), which, again, tells me that, more often than not, it was not about the issue.

THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE EMOTIONALISM THAT LIES BEHIND PAKIKIPAGTALO

I think that this tendency that Filipinos have to get very intense when arguing, and more in general, their emotionalism, is the product of the fact that the Filipino society does not encourage inner work, introspection and being internally grounded.

MASAYA VS MALIGAYA

Filipinos would rather do things that cater to the desire to be masaya, or on a high, than things that promote being maligaya or being fulfilled internally.

EXCESSIVE PAKIKISAMA

Also Filipinos are very social and spend very little time alone to reflect and meditate, which are the very things that fuel inner peace. Everything in the Philippines is all about pakikisama or togetherness, as I have abundantly mentioned in my blog.

So, given the very little time left for lonely contemplation and inner growth, it is not surprising that the Filipino society is the sum total of people who are, by and large, very emotional.

AWAYAN, PATAYAN, SUNTUKAN AND BARILAN

Not only do Filipinos argue and debate verbally but, often, pakikipagtalo leads to awayan (quarrel), patayan (killing), suntukan (punching), barilan (shooting) which, of course, is something that massively contributes to keeping the country stuck.

HOW TO FIX EXCESSIVE “PAKIKIPAGTALO”

So, as husband of a Filipina (and neutral observer of the habits and traits of Filipinos), my conclusion is, as I have said many times, that, in order to become less mainit ang ulo, less emotionally charged and less mahilig sa pakikipagtalo, Filipinos need to veer a little more toward less pakikisama and more inner work and a little more toward being maligaya rather than always wanting to feel a shallow sense of masaya, as these things get in the way of inner peace and without inner peace there cannot be peace without.

This is my personal perspective as someone who has been in a long-term relationship with a Filipina.

I would like to conclude this article by quoting the famous psychologist Dr. Wayne Dyer who, talking about self-esteem or the thing Filipinos call amor propio, said that no one can really wound your self-esteem because self-esteem is located in the “self”, otherwise we would call it “someone else’s esteem”.

There is really no point in debating and wanting to be right, both in personal relationships and in more public ones.

In the end it is not about WHO is right but about WHAT is right and what we can humbly do to find out what it is, align with it, and peacefully share it with others.