Let’s be real…even the happiest married couples have arguments. And, sometimes, it can get ugly.
How we handle disagreements will greatly affect the health and strength of our marriage. It’s healthy to talk things out, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Dave and I have certainly had our share of disagreements, and we often talk to couples who have seriously hurt their partner simply because they don’t know how to navigate arguments. There are a few DOs and DON’Ts that we need to keep in mind when arguing with our spouse:
1. When you are super angry because your spouse disagrees with you…
DON’T: Sling threats at each other.
There are times in our marriage that we will have a heated argument with our spouse, but we must resist completely losing our cool. Many times, we end up threatening one another with things like…
“If you don’t do ______, then I won’t sleep with you.”
“If you do _________, then I am going to take the kids to my mom’s house.”
or, the worst,
“If you __________, then I am going to divorce you.”
This only incites anger in each other and brings healthy communication to a screeching halt. We also end up spewing “word vomit” all over each other, and those hurtful threats are hard to forgive, much less forget.
DO: Let your partner finish his/her statements and calmly share your feelings as well.
If we want to come to a compromise, then we have to try and understand our spouse’s thoughts and feelings. This can only happen when we allow them to speak freely, without interruptions or dirty looks from us. Even if we completely disagree with how they perceive a certain situation, we need to listen intently. When both partners do this calmly, then the line of communication remains wide open, and we will be able to resolve the argument.
For more on handling marital disagreements, read my blogpost, “When a Husband and Wife Don’t See Eye-to-Eye”, by clicking here.
2. When you feel like he/she isn’t listening to you at all…
DON’T: Let your anger take over and start screaming at each other.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to stop listening when someone starts yelling at me. I end up shutting down mentally and emotionally. This seems to be the case with most people. Yelling also puts us in “fight or flight” mode. We either approach the argument with our boxing gloves on or we run away and try to act like nothing is wrong. Neither is an effective way to handle an argument.
DO: Ask your partner for a five or ten-minute break and go find a quiet place, alone, to calm down.
It’s hard to think clearly when we are upset, and we often end up saying things that we can never take back. If we end up in a loud, heated exchange with our partner, it’s best to speak up and ask for a five or ten-minute break from each other. Then, both partners can find a quiet place to calm down, gather their thoughts, pray, and think about what they want the outcome of the disagreement to be. This keeps the yelling and hurtful comments at bay, and sometimes, we end up realizing that what we’re arguing about really isn’t that important. On the other hand, if we are disagreeing about a major decision or factor in our marriage and family, the pause in the argument will help us to see things more clearly. Also, if you still feel frazzled and angry after ten minutes, take more time until you calm down and are in a better state of mind to communicate.
Check out one of our most popular posts, “The BIG Lie that Leads to a Lonely Marriage”, by clicking here.
3. When you and your spouse are at a standstill, and you can’t seem to resolve the disagreement…
DON’T: Call your Mom or Dad.
This may be a habit for many of you, but this is dangerous territory. No matter how much our parents love our spouse, it is very hard for them to not have a skewed perspective that is perpetually in our favor. Also, it’s unhealthy to place our parent’s opinion or advice ahead of our spouse’s. When we marry, we are “one” with our spouse, and we form our own separate family unit. When we constantly bring our parents into any disagreement we may have with our partners, we are failing to “leave and cleave” (Genesis). Sure, we value our parent’s advice, but we don’t need to tell Mom and Dad all the details of our arguments or all the things we don’t like about our spouse.
DO: Call an accountability partner or counselor.
It’s hard for our family to see past our personal perspective of an argument, but a counselor or accountability partner can be more objective. If we constantly argue with our spouse, then we really need to see a professional counselor. It is not healthy to live in consistent disagreement, and a counselor is trained to help couples learn the tools necessary to create peaceful home. If we have the occasional argument that we just can’t resolve, an accountability partner is extremely useful. This could be a friend that shares your values and desire to maintain a strong marriage. The accountability partner must be of our same gender and not part of our immediate family (i.e. Mom, Dad, sibling). As accountability partners, the two of you will check in weekly and talk through some of the problems you are facing in your marriage. In order for this to work, we have to be able to share the truth “in love” and not just tell our accountability partner what he/she wants to hear. We are supposed to encourage him/her to communicate freely, put pride aside, and keep the marriage strong.
4. When you can’t bring yourself to address a certain issue in your marriage…
DON’T: Act like there is no problem at all and build up resentment towards your spouse.
We are not mind readers. We must communicate daily with our spouse, and we certainly need to address any issues we’re having in our marriage. Sometimes, our partner is clueless that there is a problem. An unspoken marital issue is like an undiagnosed cancer in our marriage. Just because we haven’t discussed the issue doesn’t mean it’s not present. We have to be open and honest, even when what we have to say is unfavorable.
DO: Write down your thoughts and feelings about the issue, and have your spouse read it.
If we can’t bring ourselves to talk about an issue, then why not write it down? This can be extremely effective because we can take the time to really think about how we want to address the issue with our spouse and how we would like to say it to him/her. We have more of a filter with our tone and approach when we write things down. I recommend handwriting the note or typing it out and physically handing it to your spouse instead of delivering it via text or email. You want to be sure that your spouse receives it at an appropriate time and place, so he/she can give the note his/her full attention. We need to allow our spouse time to process what we write in the note, and give him/her time to respond. This gets the ball rolling and will help us to effectively address and resolve the issue.
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