Ideally, solving any conflict between your spouse is a simple process. All you have to do is point out the problem, take turns listening to each other and come up with a solution or compromise.
But you know from experience that arguing with your spouse is never a straightforward exercise in communication. In the real world, so much can go wrong. For some couples, they’ve been down this road so many times that they don’t even bother trying anymore.
In their minds, they already expect things to escalate, so they avoid arguing altogether. We all know that avoiding conflict now is only postponing the inevitable since the same issues will come up again in the future. Pretty soon, you could very well alienate each other with this approach.
In other words, there’s no way around arguing with your spouse. So the question is: how can you manage conflicts to minimize the anger and frustration that often comes with it?
Those who work in the customer service industry are trained to communicate with their clients in a constructive way. This is especially true when they’re dealing with difficult or irate customers – this is known as putting a positive spin.
For example, a technical support representative might a troubleshoot a computer problem by being positive with their statements instead of blaming the customer.
They know it won’t help the situation by saying something like, “Well, you wouldn’t have corrupted your flash drive if you hadn’t removed it in the middle of copying your files – that’s common sense!” Instead, they’ll probably get the customer to cooperate by rephrasing their statement to this:
“Well generally sir, disconnecting the flash drive while transferring files isn’t safe to do, but let’s see how we can recover the corrupted files.”
The main difference between the two statements is that the latter is more focused on moving forward towards a solution rather than accusing or blaming the other person.
In the same way, you can also bring up an issue with your spouse with the same approach. Understandably, this can be challenging when you’re in the heat of the moment and tempers are flaring.
Nevertheless, you can’t expect your spouse to see your point of view by bringing up the problem in a way that blames them for 100% of the problem. It’s just not possible to encourage cooperation by approaching the discussion like a debate from the get-go.
So if you’re upset because your spouse didn’t drop by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients you needed for tonight’s dinner, a good way to approach the problem like this:
“I was really counting on you to pick up the noodles and meat sauce for our pasta tonight. You know I asked you earlier today, and I’m upset because I wanted to make a nice dinner for us.”
You can probably tell what kind of results you’d get if you said something like this instead:
“I shouldn’t have asked you to get the stuff from the store – I knew you were going to forget to drop by! How could you be so forgetful?!”
Like we discussed earlier, there’s just no getting around a difficult matter. But that doesn’t mean you can’t point out the sore spots without directly attacking your partner. You’ll get much better results by “streamlining” your statements in a way that tackles the problem – not your partner’s feelings.
Turn The Tide
If there are things you can do to add to the tension, you can also do certain things that will have the opposite effect. Don’t underestimate the power your words have over your partner, so aside from using constructive statements, you can keep things from blowing over with the right choice of words.
A very good way to reverse the negative patterns of your arguments is by clearly communicating your feelings. This will give you an opportunity to break up a heated conversation.
To give you an idea, try saying something as simple as, “That really hurt, I wish you’d bring up the problem in a better way.” As with the last step, you’re not throwing around any accusations nor are you attacking your partner.
Another useful trick to calm things down is to use empathy in your statements. Instead of shooting down your spouse when they’re trying to make a point, try disagreeing this way:
“I get what you’re trying to say, but what I’m trying to understand is this…”
This way, you’ll reduce the tension even if you don’t share the same point of view. What matters is that your partner knows that you’re hearing them out in spite of the disagreement.
What most couples don’t realize is that having each others’ feelings validated can greatly help during an argument even if it doesn’t necessarily solve the actual issue. Then you can move on to find some common ground.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect you not to feel the least bit of anger while engaged in conflict with your spouse. To help you deal with this, don’t forget to refer to our earlier guide on dealing with anger.
Remember, these techniques work best when you use them together. Feel free to use a combination of the steps we talked about to prevent a simple argument from turning into an all-out war.
Be Ok With Imperfection
As we’ve said in our Save My Marriage Today book, all marriages go through a period of disillusionment after the honeymoon phase. It’s just a normal part of being together.
This is where a lot of couples run into trouble because they’re in denial about the reality that their relationship isn’t perfect. But then again, whose marriage is without problems?
This is something you also need to keep in mind when it comes to marital conflicts. Expecting everything to run smoothly or hoping that your spouse will one day be perfect is resisting the reality of imperfection.
When you allow yourself to be distracted with this mindset, you’ll be less inclined to find healthy ways to argue.
If you want to snap out of this, it’s vital to accept that two basic things in your marriage:
a) you’ll always fight about something in your marriage
b) you need to find a way around your issues
By bearing this in mind, you’ll realize that arguing with your spouse can be a healthy exercise that can actually bring you closer.
It will take some time for you to apply these things in your arguments. However, you’ll soon unlearn the negative patterns from the past and make a habit of out of applying these positive steps instead.