In my last post The Key to a Happy Marriage, we talked about how Dylan and Sarah’s clashing opinions couldn’t be remedied by simply saying yes all the time. Instead, they reached a compromise by introducing the willingness to be influenced in a relationship.
While a lot of couples may have different positions on an issue, it doesn’t mean they can’t meet halfway. Taking the initiative to show this willingness sets the right tone and helps you be a good example to your spouse.
Today however, let’s focus on arguments, particularly with their frequency and intensity.
Let me ask you: do you believe that happy couples argue LESS than those who are headed for divorce?
Furthermore, do you think that couples who are focused on listening to each other are going to stay together compared to those who aren’t?
Well, the truth of the matter is that the stability of your marriage doesn’t depend on the frequency of your disagreements, or on a particular way they’re handled.
With the wrong mindset, there’s little to keep you from attacking each other during an argument – no matter how seldom or often you fight.
Neither will listening with empathy prevent you from cutting each other down – or worse, drift apart emotionally.
Instead, the longevity of your marriage depends on the foundation of friendship you’ve built over the years.
Think about this: things said during an argument can be interpreted either positively or negatively. It all depends on the general level of friendship in a marriage.
For instance, if your partner expresses her frustration over your scattered clothes that are lying just outside the laundry hamper, it can be seen in two ways:
a) She’s nagging you because she wants to give you a hard time
b) It’s been a long day and her complaint wasn’t really directed at you
Ideally of course, you should see it in the second context. But how do you cultivate the right kind of atmosphere which will keep both of you in the right frame of mind?
Saving Up For a Rainy Day
In our book, “Save My Marriage Today”, we encourage couples to invest in something we refer to as their “Love Bank”. This concept is based on the amount of good emotions that are stored up which will help you weather tough times.
If the balance in your Love Bank is high, you’re less likely to fly off the handle whenever you get into aggressive discussions with your partner. Moreover, a well-funded “account” will bail you out no matter how often you have disagreements.
Otherwise, even the slightest difference in opinion over trivial things could trigger a full-blown fight.
The quickest way to make “deposits” to your Love Bank is through small, everyday acts of kindness for your partner.
The problem is that some couples are focused on doing something drastic, like booking a weekend getaway for a luxury cruise. While this sounds like a good idea, it doesn’t always translate into a big deposit.
It would be hard for a couple to spend the weekend together if there’s a high level of animosity between them. Without a solid foundation of friendship to rest on, they’ll probably get on each other’s nerves the whole time!
So a lot of what we see on television or in the movies doesn’t really apply in real life. A vacation is definitely something all couples need, but what about the other days of the year?
Seemingly “boring” stuff like doing your spouse’s least favorite chore or making sure they have something to eat at work isn’t exactly movie material, but the real-life impact is profound.
Think about how you are with your other friends. You’re “on the same page” with them and get along well because you’re in a back-and-forth exchange of kind acts.
There is one caveat though: while doing things for each other is needed to build friendship, never keep score. When you start computing in your head and keep track of who’s giving more, it undoes the purpose of making deposits.
The point is to build goodwill and make an effort to truly understand what makes each other happy. Deposits are done selflessly to develop an intimate knowledge of what makes your partner tick.
Making Long-term Investments
Doing nice things from the heart gets you in the ballpark, but winning the game means going a bit deeper into your relationship.
Ask yourself: how well do you know your spouse?
Are you intimately familiar with the things that drive them? Do you know what’s been bothering him or her lately?
Do you know where your spouse sees him or herself – and the relationship – in a few years’ time from now?
Couples who don’t really know or care about what’s going on in their partner’s head will have a harder time understanding where they’re coming from. And like I said before, this will really come into play during arguments.
Without the proper perspective, statements said in a fight can be totally misunderstood and it will next to impossible to end such discussions on a constructive note. How can you not take it personally if you can’t see each other as friends?
However, the good news is that you can start making changes today by simply asking them what their dreams are. Think of questions which revolve around how you can better re-discover what makes your partner tick.
A person can change so much in five or ten years; you might think you already have your spouse figured out, but their inner world may have changed significantly since you last checked.
Stay on top of what’s going on in their heart and mind. When the moment allows it, go up to your partner and ask, “What are your dreams?”
If you’re not comfortable with such a direct approach, initiate casual conversations that help answer this essential question.
Even brief discussions throughout the week will open your hearts to each other. Eventually, you’ll be able to narrow the gap which may have developed over the years.
By reacquainting yourself with your partner’s emotional state, it will bring you closer to him or her. In the long run, you’ll form a durable layer of friendship to deflect the blows of marital conflicts.
A Stronger Future
At the day’s end, doing selfless deeds and re-discovering your spouse’s inner world are two excellent ways to strengthen your Love Bank. High amounts of friendship (i.e. a healthy Love Bank) is a safety net against the inevitable bad times in your marriage.
In other words, it makes it easier to take conflicts in stride when you know in the back of your mind that you love your spouse.
In the greater scheme of things, a well-maintained account will help you endure arguments throughout the duration of your marriage – no matter how frank or frequent they may be.