You don’t like to get yelled at, right? Chances are, you don’t like to be backed into a corner, verbally attacked for your actions, or have the past held over your head. Chances are, your spouse doesn’t either.
While disagreements are a natural part of any relationship, how you approach them can help determine the climate of your marriage, as well as the outcome of the conflict. These argument “low blows” aren’t good for anybody, and usually only serve to bring others down, and detract from the issue at hand. Taking a step back from your emotions, calming down, and discussing a problem like an adult will make all the difference in the world. It takes a conscious choice, but your marriage will be better for it. To keep tensions reined in, try using these tips next time tempers start to flare:
1. Ban Always/Never Statements
This is argument etiquette 101 – using “always” and “never” are a bad idea, because they can’t actually be true. Even if it’s true that your husband has “never” remembered your anniversary, to use that language indicates that it will ALWAYS be that way – the language doesn’t allow for improvement. To accuse someone of “always” or “never” doing something is to instantly make the issue’s context larger than it needs to be. Focus on the issue at hand, or the single instance of a certain behavior.
2. No Ultimatums
Presenting your spouse with an ultimatum does two extremely negative things. For one, it puts them on the defensive – their only choices are to agree or disagree, there is no room for negotiation. In this position, the “fight or flight” response is in full effect, and to respond negatively to an ultimatum seems like a natural response. No one responds well to that kind of pressure.
Secondly, ultimatums creates unrealistic expectations from both parties. No one is going to change their behavior entirely because of a single discussion, or because one side “put their foot down.” People don’t work like that – changing behavior takes time and effort, not to mention positive reinforcement. It is absurd to think that an ultimatum, even if it’s agreed upon, will change things overnight.
3. Stay Calm
This is seriously difficult for a lot of people, but that’s what makes it so important! It’s easy to lose your cool, to let a discussion get tense, turn into an argument, then full-blown fight, and before you know it you’re slamming doors and threatening to stay at your sister’s for the weekend. This is a multi-stage process, getting this worked up, and if you’re aware that it’s happening, you can stop it. Everyone will have their own way of calming down, from deep breaths to simply walking away from the conversation for a minute. Whatever works for you, stay calm when you have serious discussions – it will help you make your points, and actually hear and absorb the points made by your husband or wife.
4. One Thing At A Time
One of the keys to having fruitful discussions, ones that actually result in improving the quality of your marriage, is to stay on topic. Don’t try to hash out all of your problems in one sitting, instead focus on a singular issue. Put a problem on the table and work together to solve it. If you are jumping around, bringing up anything and everything that your spouse has done to upset you, you’ll never be able to get to the root of any of the problems – you’ll just scratch the surface of all of them.
5. Listen To Your Partner
One of the best ways to diffuse an argument is to seek to listen and understand what your partner is trying to say. Do your best to take the time to calmly listen and show your partner that you have heard them. Demonstrating that caring and understand goes a long way to solving the disagreement. And, when your partner feels like you truly "get it," they'll be much more likely to listen to you.
Healthy discussion is important in every relationship. Even when things get heated, try to keep these tips in mind to keep your conversation on track. There is no point to talking about problems if there is no intention to solve them.
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Do you have a hard time getting your partner to engage in meaningful discussions? Is it tough to get your spouse to communicate at all? For tips on problem solving and getting your partner checked back into the relationship, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Stop fighting tips: Do your discussions get out of hand? Are you able to have productive discussions? What works or doesn't work for you? Please comment below.
Dr. Dana and Amy, StrongMarriageNow.com