Arguments often get out of hand, and words spoken in anger cannot be unsaid. Hurtful words cannot be recalled.
It is vitally important, therefore, to stay in control even in a disagreement. Disagreements come and go, but the marriage should remain stable.
When you are committed to each other, issues may arise, but resolutions are sought rather than looking for an out.
Here are some words of wisdom to help you the next time you have an argument. There are other things to avoid, but these will help you start getting on and staying on the right track when you disagree.
(Be sure to read and practice before the actual argument or you may find yourself falling into one of these traps.)
1. Ultimatums and threats.
Ultimatums and threats raise the ante of an argument to a dangerous level when it could have been solved much quicker and more civilly.
Ultimatums are an attempt to force your way on your spouse. Understanding of each other is the desired end, but ultimatums force the disagreement into what you think is a “win-lose” situation which in reality is a “lose-lose” situation.
The “or else” also forces you into a corner because you feel obligated now to do what you threatened even if you realize later that your words were not wise.
Seeking understanding does not mean that you must agree with your spouse, but you realize that the love you have for your spouse is greater than what you are arguing about. You seek to find a “work-around” if nothing else.
The marriage and your spouse are worth more than what you disagree about.
2. Name-calling or belittling.
A put-down of your spouse is also a put-down of yourself in two ways:
- When you stoop to name-calling, you put yourself on the same level as the name you called your spouse,
- and you are the one who married this person.
If he/she is what you called him/her, what does that say about you?
Always find the best in your spouse. You may have to really look for it, but it is there.
The more good you find, the easier it will be to find.
We all have a tendency to rise up to a higher level if that is what someone is looking for in us or to sink to a lower level if that is what someone is looking for in us. We tend in the long run to live up to expectations—good or bad.
Name-calling encourages your spouse to be what you called them.
Be patient. Change does not take place quickly, but it is worth it when it happens.
3. Patronizing or sarcasm.
Sarcasm always tears down to some degree—it never builds up. It attacks the character of your spouse.
Make the issue the enemy—not your spouse.
Seek to build up your spouse, not tear down. Encouragement is a welcome friend especially when you are in a disagreement.
“I know we are not seeing eye to eye right now about this issue, but I really appreciate your passion about things. That is one of the things I love about you.”
You can turn a negative into a positive if you say something like this (use words appropriate to your situation and that are true.)
I’ll bet that your attitude would improve a bit if your spouse said something like this to you.
4. Repeatedly bringing up the past.
It may take more than one discussion time (talking stick method) to come to a resolution, but once a resolution is made or forgiveness granted, do not rehash it again and again.
Do not use it as ammunition in the next argument.
Agree that what is resolved stays resolved.
The temptation when your spouse messes up again is to use the past as a club to make him/her pay for what they did. Forgiveness is a wonderful healing balm for marriages.
Rarely is all the blame a one-way street.
There usually is plenty enough to go around. Each spouse may have some degree of responsibility to bear for the situation.
Own up to your part and take responsibility for that part. There may be other aspects of the issue where you have some responsibility, but you do not see it.
Be open to that possibility.
We often give ourselves too much of the benefit of the doubt rather than giving any benefit of the doubt to our spouse. “Man up” or “woman up.”
If you are wrong, (and all of us are sometimes) say that you are wrong. Then do something to resolve it, settle it, fix it.
“I am sorry. My attitude (or what I did or said) was really bad. Forgive me.”
Do not let pride destroy your relationship because you are not willing to say words like these. And do not let saying the words make you think that you are off the hook from taking appropriate corrective actions.
Both words and actions are necessary.
Avoiding these traps can make your next disagreement less stressful and your overall outlook on your marriage more satisfying.
Strong, growing marriages are not free from arguments, but in these marriages, each partner has learned a better way to handle disagreements when they do occur.
I hope your marriage can be one of them.