How (Not to) To Bicker With Skill

This article is part of the Why Couples Fight Series

Revised 1/1/21

We’ve lost the art of taking bickering from bad to worse.

What is Bickering Going to Accomplish?… Struggles over Winning

Ok, so you ask what does bickering mean? Here’s a definition: bick·​er | \ ˈbi-kər verb 1. to argue about petty and trivial matters.

Bad marital bickering has to be petty, small, and of little or no consequence.
It’s a fight about nothing. And since Gottman says most arguments are about nothing, doesn’t it make sense that you ought to learn how to bicker… like a boss?
Here are some essential tips for how you can learn to bicker with no skill at all and try and rule the roost and fail!

Essential Tips to (not) Bicker With Skill

  • Be Vague and Unclear in Your Communication. To guarantee effective miscommunication, and send ambiguous messages to your partner. Keep them guessing about what is really bothering you. If they ask, just say “nothing.” You’ll see just how quickly they give up on you. If they really cared, they’d just read your mind. But they’re way too selfish even to bother. So why tell them?
  • Avoid the Near Occasion of Clarity. An excellent technique to avoid clarity is to stop paraphrasing what you’ve just heard your partner say. Paraphrasing is a waste of time. You already know damn well what they meant. Their insincere request to slow down the conversation for clarity is just an excuse for them to buy time to make a stronger argument. Don’t fall for this ploy.
  • When You Disagree…Pile On The Resentments!  James Taylor had it right…“I’m a steamroller baby…I’m going to roll all over you!  “Kitchen Sinking” is an effective way to let your partner know all the resentments you have been carefully storing up. Let it rip. Hammer them with one thing after another. I mean, if you’re going to go through all the trouble to bicker (badly)…why not get it all out at once?

To (not) Bicker With Skill Means Fighting to Win!

  • Don’t Ask for What You Want. They should already know. Besides, you aren’t going to be tricked into telling them because they have no intention of giving it to you anyway!
  • Validation is for Parking… Not For Partners. Be stingy with praise and don’t give an inch. Hold on to your argumentative stance. One of the main ways to bicker with(out) skill is to escalate the tiniest of arguments into a nasty fight. Let frustration build. If you’re feeling unheard, maybe they’ll start listing to you! The logic is compelling (not!). …why waste your time listening?
  • Empathy is for Chumps. When they are asking you to look at things from their point of view, don’t fall for that trap.  They’re just trying to win the argument. Don’t buy the “can’t you see this from my point of view?” crap. Remember to hold onto your black and white thinking. If they winyou lose. And you don’t want to lose… do you? Emotional Gridlock and a cold, icy standoff is better than “losing” the pettiest of battles.
  • Avoid Being Calm. Polite is for Chumps.  Aim for things to get heated fast. Go to the ropes over the tiniest of issues. If things get hot, it means they’re running out of things to say, and victory is within reach! To bicker with (no) skill is to be loud and proud!
  • Put your partner on the defensive and keep them there! Then complain about how defensive they are. Sooner or later, they’ll see who’s right, and we both know it’s you! Use sarcasm to get under their skin. Correct their grammar. Someone has to win this fight. Make sure it’s you!
  • bicker-with-skillGo Silent and Stonewall. Men stonewall naturally for a reason. It’s the right thing to do if your goal is to live in misery. If things get heated, don’t ask for a time-out. Just ignore the emotion. It’s fun to watch your partner sputter and rage, isn’t it? And you can just hang back and be cool-hand Luke. Will they resent you? Probably.
  • Or Keep Screaming. When your partner stonewalls…ratchet up the criticism. Give them something they can’t ignore. Hit below the belt with something that will really hurt them. Then repeat it over and over again.
  • Carpe Diem. The ancient Romans said it best. “Seize the Day!”

What Does to (not) Bicker With Skill Actually Mean?

Winning! And in intimate relationships, when there are winners and losers, there are actually two losers.

Your marriage has a backdrop, a subtext, like a kitchen sink filling up with the dirty dishes of resentments and hurt feelings. If you find yourself constantly bickering over trivial things, it may be that you two haven’t learned how to tackle the really painful and serious differences between you.

You may feel as if your kitchen sink is overflowing.

It’s little things that trigger you, and when you bicker, it is like an infection that you try to hide with a bandaid. Those petty fights are reminding you of this unresolved hurt and resentment. Remember the Zeigarnik Effect: unresolved fights are like small stones in your shoe. Constant irritants. And because, being human, you and your partner tend to remember negative and unfinished emotional experiences more vividly than positive ones. An attachment injury, or a betrayal tends to leave you both stuck. Repair appears out of reach. You end up believing that you either are going to be a winner or loser. And the only thing you lose is perspective and your partner’s respect and fondness/admiration.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, there is no such thing as bickering with skill.

Especially when that bickering is about nothing, which is what most petty fights are about.

You can chase your tail and get the exhilarating feeling that maybe you’re getting somewhere. But you’re not. Instead, you are seeding bad feelings, emotional distance, and resentment.   Contact us. We help put people on the right track and get away from senseless bickering.

Want to learn more? This article is part of the Why Couples Fight Series

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Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and couples struggling with conflict avoidant and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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