Humans are Emotional Animals

How to Have a Healthy Argument

June 17, 2019
Words by Celeste Headlee
Photos courtesy of Kurt Boomer

Imagine your significant other made a comment about you while you were out with friends that bothered you. Later, when you bring it up, you think your memory of the event is reliable. But scientific study shows that your memory is very faulty, especially when emotions are involved. If the issue at stake happened months or even years ago, your memory is hopelessly influenced by your feelings about the event and the people involved. You’re even influenced by where you were and what was happening every time you thought about that event again since it happened. Here are five ways to have a healthy argument in an effort to improve overall relationship health.

How to Have a Healthy Argument:

  1. Don’t waste your time arguing over who said or did exactly what.
    Instead, try to drill down to the underlying issue. It could be that the comment your partner made bothered you because you don’t think he/she respects your work or intelligence. That’s what you need to discuss, not the words they used.
  2. It’s important that you give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
    Assume their intentions were not malevolent and ask questions about why they made the choice they did. Avoid asking questions that implicitly cast judgment on the other person’s character, like “What kind of person leaves the back door open?” or “How could you possibly think that’s okay?”
  3. Use open-ended questions that invite a response.
    Engage them with your questions and encourage them to be honest by saying things like, “What makes you feel that way?” It’s okay to criticize their ideas, but not okay to criticize who they are as people.
  4. Always remember that humans are emotional animals.
    Our emotions can really change the way we interpret the world around us. We also tend to believe we’re objective, when every one of us is deeply influenced by our own biases and perceptions and fears. What you imagine was a condescending tone may have sounded quite different to someone else. I’m not saying that you are less objective than your partner, but that both of you are biased.
  5. You can and should choose your battles.
    Decide who will get the biggest emotional impact from the decision. That person has the most at stake and perhaps they can win this time so that you can win the next time. If you’re both working toward the same shared goal, it may be easier to focus the argument on reaching a mutually beneficial arrangement without blowing up the relationship by calling each other names.

Keep in mind, there will not always be a compromise in an argument. If there is a true disagreement on some issues like whether to buy or rent a home, to live in the city or suburbs, to have a pet or not, it’s not really possible to find a middle ground. Instead, you’ll have to learn to collaborate. 

Try to end the argument by reinstating your shared goal. Both of you ultimately want the same thing – a happy marriage. Odds are that improving your communication skills is one of the best ways to achieve that goal and enjoy your relationship.

For more advice from Celeste Headlee or to learn more about her, visit

Image Photo Shoot Credits: Produced by: Be Inspired Public Relations, Photography: Kurt Boomer, Deisgn & Styling: Sterling Social, Food Stylist/Chef: Be Well by Kelly, Hair & Makeup Artist: 10.11 Makeup, Pajamas: Marigot Collection, Lingerie/Robe: Girl with a Serious Dream, Paper & Calligraphy: Laura Hooper, Picnic and Pink Dresses: Donna Morgan, Sparkling Wine: OneHope Wine

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