Will you have problems, differences of opinions, and misunderstandings in your marriage?
It is not if you will have disagreements that is the issue, what is important is how you deal with them when they do arise.
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Agree on a time and place to discuss your issues.
Choosing the right time and place to discuss the issue is very important. If you are tired, hungry or already frustrated because of work or kid problems, then delay your discussion until both of you can enter this time refreshed and calmer.
2. Deal with one issue at a time—not multiple issues.
Dealing with multiple issues muddies the waters and little is accomplished.
Choose the most important issue to you as a couple, discuss it (talking stick method—this is where you talk in turn and the one who does not have the stick paraphrases what the one with the stick said), brainstorm, and then agree on some resolution.
Sometimes the resolution is to “live with it,” and you choose to give each other the gift of grace, acceptance, and love despite the difference.
3. Focus on the problem—not the character of the person.
No name-calling, no belittling, no sarcasm, no put-downs, etc.
Show respect to your spouse even if you disagree about something. It may be what your spouse said or did that is the problem, but deal with the behavior (observable facts), not the character.
When you mind-read and assign negative intentions to the words or actions of your spouse, you will most likely want to belittle him/her as a person.
“You are so dumb, stupid, such an idiot.”
“You never say anything right.”
Do not even start down that road. Instead, say something like this:
“When you said ___________ (or did ______________), I felt _________ and I would like for us to talk about it. When would be a good time for us to do that?”
The issue here is the action or words (observable facts) and not the character.
4. Be specific.
Do not use generalities.
Identify the specific problem, issue, behavior, etc. Focus on that and when you clearly identify what you are working on, both of you will be discussing the same thing.
Many arguments get bigger and bigger because you are arguing about one thing and your spouse is thinking that you are arguing about something else.
5. Do express your feelings.
Your spouse needs to know how the words, actions, or situation affected you.
Simply state how it made you feel. Be careful not to let your anger get out of control.
You want your spouse to understand your perspective and feelings. Attacking will only put your spouse in a defensive mode and nothing will be accomplished except maybe driving you farther apart.
6. Use “I” statements—not “you” statements.
“You” statements send an attacking message of blame which often causes defensiveness.
When a person feels attacked, he/she will build defensive walls to protect themselves.
Think of a castle with thick walls and a moat dug around the walls. Nothing gets accomplished when the walls are up.
“I” statements open the door to understanding each other. This is what you want. Make it possible for the drawbridge to be lowered and an invitation given to come in.
Or even better, the walls are never built.
7. Do not judge motives—give the benefit of the doubt.
Judging motives assumes that you know what your spouse was thinking or what he/she was intending by what was said or done.
No one can know for certain what a person is thinking. You may have an idea based on some clues, but when your feelings are involved (and they usually are), the interpretation will most likely be negative.
Many times, what we intend to say does not come out that way or what we wanted to do does not work out right.
It has happened to you, hasn’t it?
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Give him/her the opportunity to fully clarify their intentions and motives.
8. Attempt to have mutual understanding—not a “win-lose” attitude.
Mutual understanding is a “win-win.”
A “win-lose” mentality destroys the unity of a relationship. If one wins, then the other must lose, so the relationship loses—maybe permanently.
What is your goal in the “discussion”—to win, to prove you are right, to make your spouse grovel?
If your goal is anything other than understanding your spouse (perspective, motives, feelings), then you will go away from the argument worse off as a couple than when you started.
9. Be calm—not angry.
Take the time you need to get calm and stay calm.
If you start “losing it,” take a time out. No problem is solved in anger.
Say something like:
“I feel myself getting angry. I think it would be good to take a break, so I can calm down. Could we start again in about 30 minutes (or an hour)?”
Be sure to come back together so a resolution to the problem can be found.
10. Seek the root issue—do not deal with just the surface issues.
Sometimes the real issue is hidden beneath all the “stuff” on the surface.
If all that is ever dealt with is the surface stuff, no real progress is ever made. You may need some professional help (a professional counselor or clergy member) to get below the surface.
Do not hesitate to get that help. Your marriage is worth it.
Remember, it is not if you will have disagreements that is the issue, what is important is how you deal with them when they do arise.
Use these tips to talk about the problems in your marriage better.
What other tips and suggestions do you have?