My wife and I have heated arguments in front of our kids at least once a week. It makes it very hard to feel loving and I’m worried that our two boys will think that this is the way to communicate. Do you have any tips to help us to get back on track after a fight so we don’t harbor angry feelings and/or hold a grudge?
Thanks for writing to me for advice. Couples who discuss concerns in a timely and respectful way and adopt a “we’re in this together” mindset have a better chance of creating a peaceful home environment and a happy long-lasting partnership. They are resilient and don’t let anger destroy the loving feelings and affection that brought them together in the first place. You are smart to be concerned about the possible negative impact of your ongoing, intense disputes upon your children.
5 Steps to getting good at repair skills:
- Do not blame, criticize, or show contempt for your partner. Talking about specific issues will reap better results than attacking him or her. For instance, a complaint is: “I’m upset because you didn’t tell me about spending money on new clothes. We agreed to be open with each other and money is tight right now.” Versus a criticism: “You never tell me the truth. How can I trust you?” Avoid defensivenessand showing contempt for your partner (rolling your eyes, ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm, etc.).
- Avoid character assassinations.Don’t attack your partner’s character, values, or core beliefs. Remember that anger is usually a symptom of underlying hurt, fear, and frustration so stop and reflect on your own emotions. Listen to our partner’s side of the story instead of focusing on your counterargument. Validate their perspective first – then share your viewpoint. When you feel like attacking your partner, ask yourself: what am I trying to accomplish?
- Don’t make threats or issue ultimatums.Avoid saying things you will regret later. Being vulnerable with your partner can make you feel exposed but it is an important ingredient in a trusting, intimate relationship. You may have created a psychological armor since childhood due to being hurt or judged but this might not serve you well as an adult. Be assertive yet open in your attempts to negotiate for what you want from your partner. Both individuals in a relationship deserve to get some (not all) of their needs met.
- Take a short break if you feel overwhelmed or flooded.This will give you both time to calm down and collect your thoughts so you can have a more meaningful dialogue with your partner. Author David Akiva, encourages couples to develop a Hurt-Free Zone Policy which is a period when criticism is not allowed between partners. Without it, couples usually feel less defensive and as a result, feelings of hurt and rejection dissolve within 3 to 4 weeks.
- Practice having a recovery conversation after an argument. It’s best not to wait more than a few hours to process and argument so negative feelings don’t fester. During a recovery conversation, Daniel B. Wile, Ph.D. believes that your focus needs to be on listening to your partner’s perspective, collaborating, building intimacy, and restoring safety and good will if you want to develop good repair skills. A recovery conversation can reveal information about your relationship, lead to a resolution of the fight, and restore intimacy. It’s best to wait until both partners have calmed down before starting it and to be careful not to rekindle the fight. If you stay focused on the present this will prevent rehashing an argument.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry