Every couple argues. That’s not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that strong and struggling couples have the same arguments. The only difference is how the arguments begin and how they repair. If the argument begins in a harsh, attacking or accusing way, you will likely not get to solutions. The argument stays stuck with the first defensive reaction and never goes forward. Repair after an argument looks a lot like Romans 8. We may disagree but I am not trying to condemn you (Romans 8:1). I won’t allow any argument or disagreement to separate us (Romans 8:35-39).
Every couple throughout the life of their marriage will argue about the six topics below:
- Work Stress
- Preferences that come from the home your grew up in.
The interesting thing about these areas is that they never go away. Every couple….yes every couple will argue in some way, shape or form about these topics during the life of their marriage. These areas always change and grow, and will require you to continue to talk and compromise to find agreement. Here are two ways that you can lesson the impact of these arguments.
Change how the argument begins.
Even with the difficult topics above, if you start the conversation in a non-accusing soft tone the argument will go well and get to solutions quicker. Couples that start arguments in a harsh, attacking or accusing tone will always cause the arguments to end badly. Here are some ways to try to start the argument in a softer tone.
- Start the discuss with I statements not you statements – “I feel….” not “you did or didn’t”
- Express gratitude and appreciation for them – Don’t make the whole discussion about problems. Look for ways to start with appreciation and gratitude for who they are or what they have done.
- Control Yourself – The only thing you can control is you. Begin and end with that goal.
- Be willing to take a time out to calm down – Sometimes the argument will get stuck and tense. Be willing to take a step back and come back to the problem later. I am not saying give up or don’t talk. The goal is to stay calm understand each other and look for solutions.
In the research of Dr John Gottman he observed that couples that start an argument softly end the argument well. He was able to predict the outcome of an argument and the length of the marriage after observing the couple during an argument for three minutes. With effort and wisdom you can learn to begin a discussion and argument softly.
How can your Repair?
The focus of repair is “I may not like our disagreement but I am committed to you”. Arguments can become so hard it makes you doubt and struggle with commitment. Repair puts the focus off the problem and back to the importance of the relationship. Here are a couple things you can do that will help the repair.
- Decide – “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” Sometimes we sacrifice happiness on the alter of being right. It’s not worth it. Sometimes you can’t have both.
- Apologize – The bigger person needs to apologize first. That should be you.
- Calm Down – Sometimes the argument just gets stuck. You need to back away and calm yourself down. Don’t blame your reactions on your spouse. They can’t control you. You have to take control of your own actions and reactions.
- Try to reconnect – Look for shared experiences where you can laugh and play. You need experiences that affirm your connection. Arguments can weaken the feelings of connection. You need to create experiences together that bring you together.
Arguments will always be a part of marriage. Work on understanding and agreement will be easier to get to. It is vital that you look for ways to start the argument softly and repair well. How have you tried to change the patterns and outcomes of arguments in your marriage?
Resources to help you understand communication more.