Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days to a Fruitful Marriage Day Twenty Four: Not Letting Disagreements Steer Your Off-Course

Part of any marriage is disagreements. You spend too much of your time with your spouse, the idea of getting along about every little thing every minute of every day for the next 40 - 50 years is just plain silly. I have always said that you'd have arguments and disagreements with anyone you spent that much time with for that long.
Expecting conflict is setting the expectation that life won't be constantly rosy, which I think is a good expectation to have. I don't think expecting marriage to be constantly hard is good either, because it shouldn't be hard all of the time. But disagreements are going to pop up from time to time. All too often, these disagreements are really not very important and the subjects on which the disagreements are built are sometimes silly, but can be turned into much larger issues if they are allowed to.
If you are arguing every day and unable to come up with any type of resolution as a couple, it is probably best to talk with a professional who can help mediate and teach you better ways to resolve your conflict. However, if disagreements are not relationship threatening but have gone off course from time to time, take heart, this can be fixed.
My husband and I hardly ever "fight," but we do have conflicts and disagreements, probably more often than we realize. My husband does a really good job of holding his tongue on things, which probably helps our arguments not spiral out of control. I have learned to not always say every little thing I am thinking and to not allow our arguments to fester and stick around. We argue, we resolve, we move on. Some conflicts might be ongoing and might never fully be resolved and some are just one time occurances. The issues that are ongoing conflicts in marriage are the ones that are the hardest to get over because you know this probably won't be the last time this subject will be brought up. Here are some phrases we have learned to stay away from:
1) You "Always" or you "never" - Using indefinite phrases like that are often on exaggeration and used out of context. Your spouse doesn't "always" or "never," the word you are looking for is sometimes. These are words that we try to stay away from as it implies things it shouldn't.
2) Hitting below the belt - We all say things we don't mean. Unfortunately, words don't go away. Everyone knows their limits in a relationship, whether they've ever been told what they are or not. If you are using words that are designed to hurt and not to resolve the conflict at hand, then you are using the wrong words.
3) Endless repetition of a point - my husband hates that I keep on and on when I've made my point 15 minutes ago. It is so easy to get caught up and never letting a topic go that it has the counter-effect. Not only is it annoying, but it's ineffective.
4) Bringing up past arguments - Yes, we know there is probably a pattern in behavior, but is it necessary to recount each and every instance? Keep things in the present and instead of recounting the incident, talk about feelings or how you might act the next time something like this comes up.
5) Expecting a long-term resolution to occur during an argument - fighting hardly ever leads to a resolution on anything. If the fight is about dirty dishes always being left around the house, then fighting about it isn't going to fix the problem right then. But, the fight about dishes can turn into who-knows-what else. State your peace quickly then give each other time to calm down, maybe watch TV in another room. I often watch a comedy show or something silly to remember that this really just is a fight about dishes, not about the end of our marriage. It just gives me a little perspective.
6) Be ready to apologize, even if it's not right now - If you know you've taken the fight one step too far, you need to learn to say your are sorry. I often can't apologize right that moment when I am upset, but give me 30 minutes and a bit of cool down time, and I am ready to say those words, and say them when I really mean them, not just to be "nice" or "make peace."
Disagreements are going to happen but you need to learn to control them so they don't overtake your marriage. Promise each other that you can argue, resolve, and then let it go. And really do let it go. You can see that disagreements don't have to be that thing that comes between you.

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