by Claire Halsey

Why do you row?
You've probably had rows with all sorts of people, from your own parents to workmates and friends. Perhaps you've wondered afterwards whether it did any good or not. You might have used a blow-up to let off steam or as a way to force a change when calm discussion didn't work.

You may have noticed that rows are better for letting go of tension than for solving problems, because high emotions can get in the way of finding answers. In the long run, arguing may have a damaging effect on your relationship, and on your whole family.

Danger signs
During a typical blow-up, do you:

  • build up resentment and tension all day over some repeated irritating habit of your partner?
  • start on the issue as soon as you're both through the door?
  • quickly bring up past offences, however small and trivial?
  • make it personal, moving from complaining about the issue at hand to your partner's general character failings?
  • avoid any sort of solution or compromise?
  • forget what you are arguing about?
  • If so, you need to work on making your rows less destructive.

Make your rows more useful
First, make some rowing ground rules in advance, at a time when you're both feeling calm. For example, agree to:

  • Row about things you can change.
  • Pay attention when one of you asks for a change. Do something about it before strong feelings get in the way.
  • Stick to the current problem. Don't waste valuable time and energy on the past, which cannot be changed and may confuse today's issue.
  • Keep your language respectful. Swearing and using put-downs may give you quick feelings of satisfaction but can cause lasting damage to your relationship.
  • Avoid rowing late at night or in the early hours of the morning. At these times all issues seem more serious and being tired can get in the way of good sense.
  • Agree to disagree. Sometimes there will be subject you can't agree on. Understand and enjoy these differences.
  • Work hard to make up after a row . Remind yourselves of the love you feel for each other and your family.
  • Find more enjoyable ways to let off steam together. Physical exercise, even a brisk walk together, can release tension. Laugh out loud together, share jokes and hilarious anecdotes from the past and watch funny videos or movies to release your feelings. Be playful. All these ideas release tension and can be much more fun than a row.

Avoiding an argument
If you feel you're about to blow up, stop and think about what you want to get out of it before strong feelings take over. Sometimes you can get what you want from a row without ever having to go through the argument itself.

Is there a solution you can suggest that will satisfy you both? Or do you just want to let off steam after a long day? If so, there may be a more enjoyable way to do this. If you're hoping for the enjoyment of making up afterwards, consider whether you could get close without the argument in between.

Most importantly of all, bear in mind that your children will see and hear your rows, and might try to solve their problems the same way. Remember, you are their most important teachers, and have more influence on them than anyone else.

Your children learn from you how to treat each other and solve problems. When you act with respect and find solutions through compromise and consideration, you're teaching them lessons which will help and sustain them throughout their lives.

Did you know?

When parents argue without resolving the issue causing the problem, their sons can become more aggressive and their daughters less confident and more withdrawn.
Explaining to children what's happening in arguments and how to solve them is suggested as a way to avoid these effects.