Most marital disagreements are recurring. The same issues resurface again and again, often revolving around money, chores, the children, or intimacy. It may seem like they can never be resolved, but the truth is, many marriage differences are resolvable. When couples learn some basic principles, they often find they are more able to solve old conflicts.
Why do we fight with the ones we love?
When you got married, you were likely deeply in love with your spouse. So why do the two of you fight sometimes? There are several common reasons.
You may have seen the pattern of marital squabbles in your parents and are just repeating it. Children internalize what they see, which is a real incentive to develop healthy conflict resolution and productive negotiation patterns so you can model them for your children.
When your spouse disagrees with you or complains about something and you respond with hurt or anger, this is a self-defense mechanism. Marriage is the most emotionally intimate of all relationships. You are supposed to be “on each other’s side,” supporting each other. When your spouse disapproves, you feel hurt, and perhaps subconsciously it feels like a betrayal of trust. To protect your wounded self, you respond with defensive words or go on the attack yourself.
Some differences, however, are truly irreconcilable. These involve personality traits or strongly held ideologies that conflict with your own. Once again, these can make you feel threatened. We generally have the view that if two things are opposed, one must be right and the other wrong. This is not always the case. Some things are purely preference and when emotions are involved, rational thoughts are not always available.
What can you do?
The first step is to change your belief patterns. You need to both accept that statistically, most disagreements in marriage are reconcilable, even if they do not look it at first. Believe they are and start looking for solutions, and you will hopefully find them. And remember that your spouse is not the problem. The situation or the issue is. Shift the focus of blame from your partner to the issue, and follow these steps.
1. Calm the emotions. As just stated, logic and reason are drowned out when emotions are running high. Remember, too, that your spouse’s emotions are also aroused. If you say things you do not mean when you are upset, probably he or she does, too. So cut your partner some slack.
2. When you are both calm, try to ask probing questions. Why do you think that way? What was your motivation for doing that? Try to avoid any words or tones that suggest judgment. Be sincerely curious about why your partner thinks that way or does that thing. Sometimes the reasons are deep and rooted in events from before you met. Consider the subjective validity of your partner’s perspective. Also, be willing to take responsibility for your part of the argument – it is a great olive branch you have the power to offer when you stop pointing a finger at your spouse.
3. Both of you should then offer solutions. It may take a few different discussions to find something that works, but the effort itself will strengthen your bond.
4. When a difference of personality trait or ideology cannot be resolved, remember that personal preference is not an issue of right or wrong, and your spouse’s beliefs should not threaten yours. You may have to agree to not discuss certain things, but respect each other. Respect is the foundation of every happy relationship.
5. Mediation with a trained marriage counselor, expert in helping people find the deeper causes of conflict or mediating fundamental differences, can help you overcome your chronic disagreements and strengthen your union. Please call me or another qualified counselor near you to help you navigate around the landmines of recurring arguments.