How we handle disagreements will greatly affect the health and strength of our marriage. It’s healthy to talk things out, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Dave and I have certainly had our share of disagreements, and we often talk to couples who have seriously hurt their partner simply because they don’t know how to navigate arguments. There are a few DOs and DON’Ts that we need to keep in mind when arguing with our spouse:
When you and/or your spouse are tired, hungry, and/or sexually frustrated and on edge…
DON’T: Pick a fight with your spouse and press him/her on certain issues.
“What’s wrong with you? You’re stressed out all the time, and I’m so sick of it!” or “I’m so tired, and you don’t even care! Just leave me alone!” only make things worse. And yet, when we’re frustrated, we tend to fly off the handle like this to the one we love the most.
DO: Address the issues that are making you and/or your spouse so frustrated.
Anytime we are tired, hungry, and/or sexually frustrated, we are naturally going to be a little testy, and we might have the tendency to snap at our spouse. So, it’s important that we do whatever we can to resolve these issues as best we can (i.e. get some rest, eat a snack, make time for romance, etc.) as best we can. If you feel it coming on or you notice that your spouse is on edge, take a fifteen-minute time out until you both feel calm enough to speak respectfully to one another.
You might consider saying something like this: “Honey, you seem a little stressed. How can I help?” or “Babe, I’m so sorry I’ve been so short with you. I’m exhausted, and I need to do a better job of getting the rest that I need to be at my best.”
These statements are disarming and even helpful. They don’t make accusations or stir up conflict. These statements address the real issue at heart and open the door to solving the problem together.
When you are super angry because your spouse disagrees with you…
DON’T: Sling threats at each other.
There are times in our marriage that we will have a heated argument with our spouse, but we must resist completely losing our cool. Many times, we end up threatening one another with things like…
“If you don’t do ______, then I won’t sleep with you.” Or, “If you do _________, then I am going to take the kids to my mom’s house.” Or, the worst, “If you __________, then I am going to divorce you.”
This only incites anger in each other and brings healthy communication to a screeching halt. We also end up spewing “word vomit” all over each other, and those hurtful threats are hard to forgive, much less forget.
DO: Let your partner finish his/her statements and calmly share your feelings as well.
If we want to come to a compromise, then we have to try and understand our spouse’s thoughts and feelings. This can only happen when we allow them to speak freely, without interruptions or dirty looks from us. Even if we completely disagree with how they perceive a certain situation, we need to listen intently. When both partners do this calmly, then the line of communication remains wide open, and we will be able to resolve the argument.