Dr. Greg Cason
Anyone who has been in a relationship longer than two weeks knows that conflict is a part of it. My Valentine’s gift to you is a list of 10 guaranteed techniques to help you win any argument with your opponent—err, I mean partner. You’re welcome.
1. Assassinate His Character: Take the issue you are arguing about and make it about your partner’s entire personality. If he lied, call him a liar; if he doesn’t want to have sex, call him frigid; or if you don’t know what to call him, just use the ubiquitous “asshole.”
2. Paint with One Putrid Color: This is character assassination combined with an accusation. The key words are “always” and “never.” Examples are, “You’re always on Grindr” or “You never want to top.” If he starts arguing back a contradicting fact, condescendingly dismiss it and switch to technique number 3.
3. Bring Your Birkin Bag: Don’t just focus on the issue that brought you to the argument. Reach into your designer purse and bring out every past issue you’ve ever disagreed about. Hit him with as many as you can in as much detail as possible.
4. Play the Blame Game: Make it clear that for any issue, the fault lies entirely with your partner. Nothing is off-limits—catching you on a Lazy Susan at the bathhouse, rolling on Molly at his mother’s house on Christmas or just not returning his 23 texts. It’s all his fault.
5. Play the Martyr: Throw off your partner by telling him that he is right in all of his complaints. Say that you are hopeless and you can understand why he hates you. Your partner will not be able to argue with your pathetic self.
If things still aren’t getting anywhere, I suggest these nuclear options:
6. Pull Rank: Tell your partner you are richer, smarter, better looking, have a bigger dick, etc. Tell him he has no idea what he is talking about and give advice based on your superior position. If he protests, patronize him by saying that you are “just trying to help.”
7. Stop Responding Completely: This will not only bring the argument to a screeching halt but will infuriate your partner. For extra credit, combine your shut down with pulling rank by saying, “I don’t have to listen to this. I have a real job to get up for in the morning!” Then slam the door behind you.
8. Call in Fake Witnesses: Bring in the nasty opinions of friends. To drive your partner extra crazy, don’t say their names, just say “someone” (you probably made the whole thing up anyway).
9. Mock and Scorn: It’s not what you say but how you say it. Use your high school acting skills to imitate your partner, really exaggerating any negative qualities. Or ridicule your partner by saying “you’re so smart” but make sure your tone says the opposite.
Lastly, once you have vanquished your opponent, time to “make-up.” But don’t give up your power.
10. Give a Non-Apology: If your partner says he feels hurt, sad, jealous, upset or whatever, do not apologize for anything you did. Rather, tell him you are sorry he feels the way he does. His feelings are the real problem, not you.
Persistent use of the above techniques can make you a winner in any argument with your partner. The only problem is that by being a “winner” you place your partner in the role of “loser.” And though “losers” may stick around to fight another day, they eventually tire of losing and move on. But, hey, it saves you the bother of breaking up!
If for some reason you want to wuss out and strengthen your relationship rather than destroy it, then you might want to take a different tack altogether when conflict arises.
Rather than trying to win the battle with your partner, set your ego aside and think about the two of you winning the relationship war together. Try these relationship building conflict techniques:
1. Focus on One Problem at a Time: Only argue one problem at a time. Don’t bring in anything else. Don’t make it a character flaw of your partner. Keep it simple.
2. Take Responsibility: Get real with yourself and own up to your actions that are problematic. Don’t blame anybody else or, conversely, take all the blame and be a martyr. Just look at what you did and say, “Yes, I did it.”
3. Get Eye to Eye with Your Partner: Get off your high horse and put yourself on the same level as your mate. Even if you make more money, have a bigger wang or just think you are morally superior. And leave out the opinions of others. You are in an equal partnership with the man or woman in front of you. Act like it.
4. Really Apologize: I’m a fan of the simple “I’m sorry.” No ifs, ands or buts. Just sorry. If you really want do it right, demonstrate understanding of where you went wrong and commit to do better. End with “I love you.”
The secret weapon to navigate any argument:
5. Validate: This can be as simple as standing there and listening to your partner’s concerns. It is made stronger by expressing that you understand how they might feel the way they do given the circumstances. And even if you disagree with their concerns and you find yourself having trouble understanding how they feel, I suggest looking for the grain of truth in what they are saying. Call it out. Own it. It works.
The next time a conflict arises in your relationship, ask yourself if you would rather be right or be together. If you want to be right, use the first 10 tips. If you want to be together, use the last 5. Either way, you can get exactly what you want!
Dr. Greg Cason is a licensed psychologist based in West Hollywood, specializing in cognitive therapy with individuals and couples. He can be contacted by going to DrGreg.com.