How To Stop One-Uping Your Partner In An Argument

No one wants to admit that when they’re in an argument with their partner, sometimes they just want to win. And this drive to win makes it feel so hard to listen to that inner voice that says slow down there… This drive also makes us say and do things we normally wouldn’t. 

It really is not so much fun to get caught up in your feelings of frustration or anger. This does not bring out the best in you. Nor does this make you proud.  

That moment when you are in an argument with your partner and you know you have a solid point, but at the same time, you know the other person does too. Your feelings of frustration, overwhelm, anger, and fear overcome you.  You know that you are in unhelpful territory, but it is just unbelievably hard to stop yourself in that moment. 

The reality is, we all want to be validated and understood on how we feel. We want our pain in the given moment to be recognized and for the other person to take responsibility so that we can feel better. 

stressed couple sitting in a dim diner.

Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to get swept away with emotion and frustration during a fight it affects our relationships in many ways. 

The first thing that happens is we focus more on winning the fight than we do on fixing the problem. Instead of coming together and joining with our partner during an argument, we make it about feeling better about ourselves. Yet, this attention on what is happening to us, distracts us from what’s really happening to the relationship. Rather than working together for the better of the whole, we’re working toward what we think is bettering ourselves.

The thing is, we aren’t actually doing what’s best for us. Because we’re acting in a way that’s driven by anxiety and fear, not connection, which is what the relationship really needs.

When you and your partner approach an argument from a self-serving place, you’re essentially teaching yourselves not to trust each other. As you want to have a more sensitive or difficult conversation both of you are looking at it from the perspective of how it impacts yourself instead of how it affects the relationship as a whole.

But, what’s perhaps even more damaging, is that you’re teaching yourself that you’re not trustworthy. That the vulnerable things are too hard or too scary. And that you aren’t able to hear things that out of your comfort zone. That you aren’t able to handle difficult situations when they come up. Our Couples therapy near Moorpark can support you in tolerating things outside your comfort zone. 

Perhaps the fighting battle with your partner looks something like this:

After a long day of work, you are feeling tired and overwhelmed.  Your partner comes in and barely even says hi. Then starts spewing out the list of the things that need to get done. Out of frustration you start yelling at your partner saying “I just need a minute. I just got home.” Your partner is now angry because you are always yelling. And the cycle continues…. 

Eventually, you end up feeling stuck. That your partner doesn’t get you and may never get you. So many couples struggle with not feeling understood and get caught up in fights with one another.     

In marriage and counseling therapy in Simi Valley, CA, our therapists provide you with the proper tools to communicate better.

It’s true that you have a strong point and that you want to be heard by your partner during an argument. But, your feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment often overpower you in the moment of an argument. And when you engage in a fight with the intention of winning, you are actually feeding into the downhill spiral of your relationship and your trust in yourself. 

However, if you can learn how to stop yourself and recourse your plan of action in an escalated moment, you can truly communicate your message in a way that has a much better chance of getting through. As a result, you are ensuring that the relationship comes out as the winner, not just you. 

a couple embracing each other under a blue sky

When you continue to compete with your partner in an argument… 

You will continue to feel that your emotions are dictating you. That you have little to no control in the moment of an argument with your partner. This road will lead you to saying more things that you don’t mean and continual feelings of guilt. 

Escalating a fight will take away the significance of what the point you wanted to get across. It will lead to more tension with your partner and sadness of how far off you two are from where you want to be. 

And as you lose faith in the relationship, you can start to question yourself. Because if you can’t handle stress or rough patches with the person you chose as your partner how are you supposed to handle hard times in other areas of your life.

Which can feel like a total loss of control.

When your relationship is out of synch it can make things like your job, or your family life feel even more difficult. As these fall from your grasp you can start to overcompensate for your feelings of hopelessness by arguing with your partner even more.

Practice clear boundaries in your relationship to avoid miscommunication or conflict.

When you prioritize a happy relationship over fighting with each other

You will feel more in control in a moment of frustration and be able to CHOOSE how to handle yourself instead of allowing your emotions to take you for a ride. Being able to breathe and regulate yourself in a way that will get your point across and will leave you feeling proud. You will be much more likely to feel heard and respected if you are able to stop yourself and take responsibility where you need. 

As you do this, you’ll start to see that you and your partner can become a source of support for one another. When you stop trying to one-up each other, you can see that your partner is someone you can rely on.

The person you chose to be your partner actually feels like a partner instead of someone you need to compete against and “beat.”

But the ultimate gain here is you gaining your own power. 

You can start feeling more in control because you get to choose how to respond. You get to choose rather than reacting to your partner or the tense situation during an argument. Instead of your anxiety or your overwhelm being in the driver’s seat, you get to be the navigator.

happy couple eating ice cream

Check out our 5 strategies for helping yourself to stop one-uping your partner in a fight. This is done by you gaining control of your actions in a fight. 

How to Gain Control of Your Actions in a Fight with Your Partner 

1. Recognize your body cues

Attune to what’s happening, recognize when you’re in an argument with your partner. As you escalate, you may be able to slow it down before it gets out of control. A change in your body is often one of the first ways you can tell you’re getting upset. 

Marriage counseling with us in our Simi Valley Therapy Practice we help our clients better navigate their relationships and tune into their bodies. A great way to do this is to follow what we help others do in marriage counseling sessions.

At home you can learn some of the first common cues you might experience . These Include your heart beating fast, tension in your shoulders or other parts of your body. You may also feel like you’re so mad/upset you’re shaking, sweating, etc…. 

When you start to recognize these signs in your body, you can start to pay attention and let these sensations guide you. While work to decipher what your body is telling you, you can use these messages as early signs that you’re headed into unhelpful territory.. By listening to them, you can switch directions more quickly.

2. Come up with a mantra 

When you’re noticing some of the body signals from above, it can be hard to know what your next step is. But having a mantra can be a cue to check in with yourself and teach your mind that you have control. This saying is something you can repeat to yourself and that will mean something of significance to you. It is a symbol to slow down and be more in the moment.

This could be something like:

“I am committed to having a healthy relationship and I have control over the way I respond” 


“Breathe and you will get through this in a way that makes you feel proud”

In session, our therapists and psychologists In Simi Valley work with clients to create mantras that align with the goals they have for themselves and their lives. This ensures that the significant meaning will come through and help the client remember the type of person they want to be.

You can do this yourself by focusing on a value or a goal you have and creating a phrase that will remind you of it. Whenever you and your partner are in an argument, you can use your mantra to ground yourself.

3. Use self talk

A mantra is intended to help you stop what you’re doing in the moment. The way you talk to yourself helps carve the direction the fight will go. Many of us get caught up in our negative self-talk. Such as “my opinions are stupid” and “my partner doesn’t care about what I have to say.” When you say these things to yourself it makes you more anxious and you feel the need to battle it out.

When couples come to Simi Psychological Group we dive into the deeper-rooted messages.  We then help them understand how these messages contribute to their conflict.

One thing you can do when you are trying to prove yourself in a fight is to pay attention to the way you are talking to yourself. This will help you know that your tendency to go on the offense stems from your inner bully. This bully doesn’t have your best interest in mind.

4. Remember to Breathe

Most people don’t realize how powerful of a tool breathing really is. It’s the kind of tool that tends to go in one year and out the other for many. Why? Because it’s so intuitive possibly. Do people use this strategy as often as they could? Breathing is a powerful method to help you stay in the moment and connect with your mind and body. It is also essential part of self-care. 

When couples come to Simi Psychological Group, we help them learn how to connect with their breath and slow things down. People typically are able to notice how much their mind takes them for a loop in the moment. We help them recenter and connect to their breath which leads them to take better control of the moment. 

During a fight with your partner try to remind yourself to breathe. As you breathe try to pay attention to the feeling as you breathe in and out. Allow your breath to be a tool to slow down all the frustration that is happening in your mind. This can be a strong cue to take a break for a moment before continuing on in the conflict.  

5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and recognize the courage and strength in it.

This is way easier said than done. But, is it worth it? No doubt. Being vulnerable in the moment can be done in various ways. Did you ever have that feeling that you know “what its really about” when you are in the midst of a fight. Maybe you are fighting with your partner about staying out with their friends last night.  Deep down you know that it’s really about you feeling lonely or scared of them not wanting to be with you. Or your insecurity of not being good enough or fun is coming up for you. Or you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed about something completely different. It’s so hard to admit that in the moment to your partner and maybe even to yourself. The ability to slow down and be vulnerable requires strength and doing things differently. 

At Simi Psychological Group we help couples look at what is underneath the content of their fights. We help them communicate differently because continuing to do the same will not serve them well. We work with them on being vulnerable in the room with themselves and one another.  

As a way to help yourself ease your frustration with your partner, try to see what is underneath it. What is it all really about for you? Allow this to be a way to ease yourself in the midst of a fight. Communicate with yourself and your partner on what is coming up for you. 

Feeling as though you are not in control and that your frustration is taking over is a helpless and upsetting feeling.

But, when you recognize your own power and the ability you have to focus on coming together with your partner, you can stop driving each other apart. Instead, you can become the determining force in stopping things from escalating and keep them moving in the direction. 

Get help in your marriage with marriage counseling in Simi Valley, Ca

You can absolutely communicate with your partner in a way that is all around more effective and simi psychological group can help…. Contact us to schedule a marriage counseling session in Simi Valley, Ca today!

Written by,

Donna Novak, Psy.D. 

I’m a licensed clinical psychologist who empowers people to work through the roadblocks that are holding them back and find meaning and purpose in their lives. Learn more

Donna Novak - psychologist Simi Valley, ca

At our Therapy practice in Simi. Valley, CA, we offer Child therapy, Teen therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Neuropsychological Testing. We are now offering marriage counseling online therapy for most services.




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