I need to stop arguing like my parents


#1

Hi all,

I need some serious help. My parents argue like they're 13. They are sarcastic, cold, belittling, condescending, remorseless, unforgiving, I could go on... To sum it up, the way that I have learned to argue from my parents WITH my parents and my siblings has been detrimental to many relationships I've had in my life, especially with my girlfriend. I act the exact same way towards her and need some serious help when it comes to conflict management. Any books or tips? :shrug:


#2

[quote="dillonhudson, post:1, topic:222291"]
Hi all,

I need some serious help. My parents argue like they're 13. They are sarcastic, cold, belittling, condescending, remorseless, unforgiving, I could go on... To sum it up, the way that I have learned to argue from my parents WITH my parents and my siblings has been detrimental to many relationships I've had in my life, especially with my girlfriend. I act the exact same way towards her and need some serious help when it comes to conflict management. Any books or tips? :shrug:

[/quote]

My question to you is whether or not you should be arguing period. Only then should you be wondering *how *to argue.

Arguing is morally neutral. Being sarcastic, cold, confrontational, etc. may or may not be called for. But reasons for being so are probably few and far between. The fact that someone else is acting that way is not a reason for you to be that way.


#3

Yes, we should be arguing. Arguing, if done right, is healthy and necessary. They way I'm arguing is not called for and is rude and unhelpful. My girlfriend is awesome. She's forgiving and kind and I'm not.


#4

[quote="dillonhudson, post:1, topic:222291"]
Hi all,

I need some serious help. My parents argue like they're 13. They are sarcastic, cold, belittling, condescending, remorseless, unforgiving, I could go on... To sum it up, the way that I have learned to argue from my parents WITH my parents and my siblings has been detrimental to many relationships I've had in my life, especially with my girlfriend. I act the exact same way towards her and need some serious help when it comes to conflict management. Any books or tips? :shrug:

[/quote]

I struggle with the same issue. My parents were/are not so great at getting along, and it's really affected how I act sometimes in my own relationship.

I argue just like my mother, which is to say I either freeze my boyfriend out or yell at him. Neither of which is mature or healthy at all. What has helped is having a conversation with him about it and asking him to help me. I truly don't want to treat him badly, and he knows that, and also understands that I need his help. So, whenever we are arguing, and I get a little out of hand, he will calmly say "Please stop talking to me like that." I admit that it doesn't always work, but since we've addressed it and decided to work on it together, it does work more often than not.

I imagine that it's going to be a lifelong struggle for me. It's very difficult to break out of patterns you've learned when it's basically all you know. I try to remember though, that I our relationship is NOT the same as my parents', and because I'm aware of how I argue, I'm responsible for changing it. I try to remember how unfair I'm being. What seems to help me the most is thinking of my (future) children. It always devastated me hearing my parents argue so much, and it hurt so much that it kills me to think of making my own children feel the same. I'm committed to working as hard as I can to form new patterns of behavior before I have kids, so I won't make them feel the way I did.

The good thing is that you recognize that it's hurting your relationships. Have you talked about this with her? If you haven't already, explain to her that you're concerned about the way you argue with her, and that you haven't really had good role models in your parents. Which is not to say it's an excuse, but rather an explanation. Make it clear to her that you are committed to working on it because you care about her, and ask her if she will help you. Also, ask her to describe the way you make her feel when you argue- it might be hard to hear, but she will know that you're concerned and care about her, and it will give you something to think about when you do get into an argument.

In the end, I think it's good to recognize where you learned your behavior, but use that to turn it around. And tell your girlfriend NOT to put up with you when you are acting poorly. This has been very helpful for me. If my boyfriend doesn't LET me treat him badly, it stops me in my tracks and makes me remember that I love him.


#5

It's difficult to change habits like this when you have grown up with them. My parents' way of arguing was to say very hurtful insulting things to each other. My husband's parents are more like what you describe: cold and sarcastic.

Well, you can imagine the first arguments my husband and I had:eek: He accused me of deliberately hurting his feelings and I accused him of being sarcastic, and we were both right because it was what we had learned from our parents.

We have been married for seven years and it took us the better part of the first four years to develop a more healthy style of arguing where we each stated our opinion without insulting or belittling the other.

We also did about six months of marriage counseling which helped us learn how to better communicate with each other.

The key to change is, of course, the recognition there is a problem and the willingness to work on it. You see it is a problem and that's a good first step. It will take time to change.

One thing my husband and I do is take a time out if we are too angry to speak to each other without reverting to old behaviors. One of will say we need some time alone first and we each respect the other person's request. Then after we have calmed down we can argue more calmly.


#6

[quote="dillonhudson, post:1, topic:222291"]
Hi all,

I need some serious help. My parents argue like they're 13. They are sarcastic, cold, belittling, condescending, remorseless, unforgiving, I could go on... To sum it up, the way that I have learned to argue from my parents WITH my parents and my siblings has been detrimental to many relationships I've had in my life, especially with my girlfriend. I act the exact same way towards her and need some serious help when it comes to conflict management. Any books or tips? :shrug:

[/quote]

I used to "fight dirty" just as you describe. Eventually, I had a "come to Jesus" moment, like you're describing--you realize the problem and you want to fix it. That's a LOT more progress than most people make! :thumbsup:

My advice is:

(1) Do not argue when emotions are high. Take a time out. Tell your girlfriend you want to continue the conversation when you have composed yourself.

(2) Gather your thoughts and try to express how you are feeling in a non-combative way. Ask your girlfriend to do express her feelings. You should both try to be specific--don't say "It makes me mad." or "It annoys me." Instead say "I feel jealous when..." or "I feel belittled when..."

It is REALLY hard to fight with someone you love when they put themselves in the vulnerable position of exposing their feelings.

Edited to add one more piece of advice: while it's good to UNDERSTAND that we are who we are because of our family of origin, a lot of people fall into using that as an EXCUSE not to break the cycle. It IS hard to change, but it is NOT impossible. And recognizing the problem is half the battle (so you're halfway there!)


#7

Wow!

You guys are awesome, thanks a lot. It was actually her that noticed it first (she knows the inner-workings of my family from stories I tell her). It's extremely hard not to revert to old tendencies. Thanks for the help and I'll definitely try some of the solutions mentioned. :thumbsup:


#8

I can relate to you so so so much. My parents are still married, but not really together, if that makes sense. They don't sleep in the same room (haven't for years), don't do anything together, and when they are together, argue all the time. My mom is very sweet, but my dad just has anger problems (raised in abusive household). He has never been physically abusive, but can be very mean and hurtful, especially to my mom. I grew up listening to them yell at each other and am very used to it. This marriage that they're in makes me sad.:(
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a household with a very loving and committed marriage.
And if you ever saw us argue, you could definitely tell our backgrounds. I tend to yell when I get mad, DH is very relaxed and almost never raises his voice. It makes me so sad that I am this way but it is like I can't help it, I am so used to seeing my parents do it and doing it myself from a young age.

I am in a very similar situation as you. On the one hand, I am responsible for my actions and there is no excuse for me to act like this. On the other hand, I've never seen another way and it makes it really hard :(
I guess I don't really have any advice, but to pray. I just wanted you to know I completely understand how you feel.


#9

anp, are you my twin?

Word for word, our backgrounds are identical. Except for my mom being very sweet, she's difficult and nit-picky. My dad, like myself, has anger issues. My girlfriend was raised in an AWESOME household. Her parents have a rock-solid marriage after 26 years.

Wow, seriously, our backgrounds are creepily similar! :eek:


#10

[quote="anp1215, post:8, topic:222291"]
I can relate to you so so so much. My parents are still married, but not really together, if that makes sense. They don't sleep in the same room (haven't for years), don't do anything together, and when they are together, argue all the time. My mom is very sweet, but my dad just has anger problems (raised in abusive household). He has never been physically abusive, but can be very mean and hurtful, especially to my mom. I grew up listening to them yell at each other and am very used to it. This marriage that they're in makes me sad.:(
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a household with a very loving and committed marriage.
And if you ever saw us argue, you could definitely tell our backgrounds. I tend to yell when I get mad, DH is very relaxed and almost never raises his voice.** It makes me so sad that I am this way but it is like I can't help it, I am so used to seeing my parents do it and doing it myself from a young age.
**
I am in a very similar situation as you. On the one hand, I am responsible for my actions and there is no excuse for me to act like this. On the other hand, I've never seen another way and it makes it really hard :(
I guess I don't really have any advice, but to pray. I just wanted you to know I completely understand how you feel.

[/quote]

You CAN help it. And you HAVE seen another way--your husband! Your childhood is slightly different from mine, but your style and your marriage are very much like mine. I just want to give you hope that you CAN break the cycle of fighting dirty.


#11

[quote="dillonhudson, post:3, topic:222291"]
Yes, we should be arguing. Arguing, if done right, is healthy and necessary.

[/quote]

I disagree completely.

I suggest you read the book For Better.... Forever by Dr. Greg Popcak.

Arguing is a sign of immaturity and poor communication skills. It is neither necessary nor healthy. That you believe it to be both is your old patterns talking.

Learn a new way founded on the virtues.

I can also recommend the books Crucial Conversations and/or Crucial Confrontations.


#12

Any news/reviews on these?:
amazon.com/Love-War-Finding-Marriage-Dreamed/dp/0385529805/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292031283&sr=1-1
amazon.com/Thriving-Despite-Difficult-Marriage-Michael/dp/1600062148/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292031509&sr=1-1
amazon.com/gp/product/0883687291/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0764422405&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=050EAMWEFDM87B92BBB1
amazon.com/Mad-About-Us-Moving-Intimacy/dp/0764204491


#13

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:222291"]
I disagree completely.

I suggest you read the book For Better.... Forever by Dr. Greg Popcak.

Arguing is a sign of immaturity and poor communication skills. It is neither necessary nor healthy. That you believe it to be both is your old patterns talking.

Learn a new way founded on the virtues.

I can also recommend the books Crucial Conversations and/or Crucial Confrontations.

[/quote]

I agree with 1ke. "Arguments" are about not hearing the other person and only wanting to get your own way. When a problem comes up, both people should want to solve the problem for the betterment of BOTH.

That of course is the IDEAL...and very hard to accomplish, as you are seeing. Sometimes when both people are angry or upset, it would be impossible to be mature and work on the problem together. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, (HALT) stop and take care of those needs before you discuss problems. Your emotions will get in the way of solutions, especially if old feelings from your childhood are activated. A lot of people jump straight into the fray, not even recognizing that they are acting out old childhood injuries instead of truly listening to what the other person is saying. I can recommend against EVER starting to solve a problem just before bedtime!!!! THE WORST time ever to discuss anything intense is at the end of the day when both people are tired and worn out. Made that mistake many times.

Our imprints from our parents come out at the worst times and the worst ways. I am a lot older than you are, and just a few years ago, I realized that my end-game when someone won't acknowledge my feelings is just to dissolve into tears. I mean, I feel the emotions of hurt, betrayal, etc. so it's not as if the tears are just manipulative, but the thoughts in my head are not necessarily applicable to the situation in front of me, KWIM? So now when I start feeling victimized and the tears start welling up, I remind myself that I am an adult and can keep my composure so we can solve the problem.

It takes two adults to solve problems, and when one of those people becomes a child again, nothing can move forward. I have to work on why problems and conflict are so threatening to me, that I will do almost anything to avoid them, and will fall apart as a last resort...I'm too old for that game! :)

There are tons of books on how to effectively communicate. It's when you feel threatened or mistreated that those old patterns come out, and they can do damage if allowed to continue. It helps also to find mentors who do know how to communicate in a conflict situation - maybe you have a peer conflict resolution program at your college? To sit and listen as people solve problems while truly listening to one another can be very helpful.

You are WAY ahead of the game for recognizing this now, and being WILLING to work to change it. I predict a great future for you!!!

:thumbsup:


#14

[quote="dillonhudson, post:9, topic:222291"]
anp, are you my twin?

Word for word, our backgrounds are identical. Except for my mom being very sweet, she's difficult and nit-picky. My dad, like myself, has anger issues. My girlfriend was raised in an AWESOME household. Her parents have a rock-solid marriage after 26 years.

Wow, seriously, our backgrounds are creepily similar! :eek:

[/quote]

I know! It is very crazy! That's why when I read your story I couldn't help but comment, even if I wasn't really offering advice, just sympathy. It is very hard to break the cycle of anger.


#15

[quote="Augusta_Sans, post:10, topic:222291"]
You CAN help it. And you HAVE seen another way--your husband! Your childhood is slightly different from mine, but your style and your marriage are very much like mine. I just want to give you hope that you CAN break the cycle of fighting dirty.

[/quote]

I know I can help it, I just meant it is very hard. Two years of being married to DH.....18 years of living with parents....I have just had much more experience with them. But it does get better day by day. When I look at myself 2 years ago, I am better now, but still have a ways to go.


#16

I'll just add one more thing.

"Arguing" is actually a very rational, logical, unemotional practice.

What you have been describing isn't so much "arguing" as it is "bickering". Bickering typically consists of a heated "debate" over why what one person wants and/or feels should win over what another person wants and/or feels. Both parties try to throw out "reasons" for their points of view but in reality this is just about power. But that is not an argument; it is a power play thinly disguised as an argument. The more powerful "wanter" wins over the less powerful "wanter". But the relationship looses either way.

You have to decide what is important to you. Getting what you want or a relationship? There are no guarantees that you can have a really good relationship with some people. But it's pretty easy to sabotage any chances for decent relationship by trying to convince the other party that your way/point of view/emotions/etc should get priority over what is important to the other party.

You can *sometimes *"win" a relationship by not responding to "power challenges" and instead "surrendering" to what the "opponent" really needs.


#17

I have been married for 25 years and we have argued many times, sometimes in very unhealthy ways. We haven't argued now for years in any serious way, because it isn't worth it. But I think every couple will argue at some time; the point is that you can argue while having love in your heart and attitude for your spouse.


#18

I'd like to compliment you. It's easier to recognize bad behavior in our parents than in ourselves. That you are actively seeking advice to change that behavior speaks well for your success. Maybe you can lead your parents by example. God bless you.


#19

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:222291"]
Arguing is a sign of immaturity and poor communication skills. It is neither necessary nor healthy.

[/quote]

I'd rather have a root canal than admit that I agree with 1ke, but........

I agree with 1ke.


#20

[quote="SMHW, post:16, topic:222291"]
I'll just add one more thing.

"Arguing" is actually a very rational, logical, unemotional practice.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:

ar·gu·ment   
[ahr-gyuh-muhnt] Show IPA
–noun
1.
an oral disagreement; verbal opposition; contention; altercation: a violent argument.
2.
a discussion involving differing points of view; debate: They were deeply involved in an argument about inflation.

3.
a process of reasoning; series of reasons: I couldn't follow his argument.

4.
a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point: This is a strong argument in favor of her theory.

5.
an address or composition intended to convince or persuade; persuasive discourse.

6.
subject matter; theme: The central argument of his paper was presented clearly.

My husband and I do have arguments every now and then but the both of of are more passive people. We also try to use as precise language as we can because we do not assume the other is a mind reader (since my husband is kinda scholarly, this really is the best way I can get to him). I personally have a tendency to bottle up my emotions so even when I'm fuming, I don't show it. Then I bring the issue up after I've calmed a bit...or even slept on it. Sometimes I need a night's sleep to get the frothing animal out of my system.

My parents didn't really get into emotionally charged discussions very often. But when they did, my dad had a way of flipping on the obstinate switch and resorts to hyperbole. He becomes very difficult to talk to. My in-laws can be noticeably passive aggressive with each other even when they are not communicating with each other. He's expressed much gratitude that I don't like to play games...


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