*Welcome to week five of this 12-week series based on the New York Times® bestselling book, Happy Wives Club. Join me each week as I share 12 principles about marriage I’ve learned from some of the happiest couples around the world.*
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to arguing in marriage.
Some say it is abnormal if you don’t. Others believe it is possible, with the one you love most, to get your point across without pointing fingers.
Welcome to week five of our 12 Weeks to a Happier Marriage series (and if you’re wondering why this is a week late…charge it to my head not my heart).
Until tomorrow…make it a great day!
It’s natural, and inevitable that at some point you and your spouse will have a little spat.
Disagreements are normal because, as humans, we all bring different perspectives and experiences to a situation. These differences in view point will naturally create disconnects in communication and understanding.
Resent research reveals that couples who have small disagreements on a regular basis tend to avoid big divisive arguments in the long run.
The reason is simple; small verbal disagreements can actually help couples keep lines of communication open, and honest. If… they know how to fight fair.
In this post we came up with 10 important practices that we found helps us to not have big battles, and how we’ve learned to communicate to keep our marriage happily in tact.
We wanted this to be sort of a “he says – she says” post, so Byron’s points have a (B) and Annett’s have an (A) in front of them. We hope this helps you continue on your journey to happily ever after.
How to Increase Your Happiness by Learning to Fight Fair in Marriage
1. Establish the rules of engagement (B): Your perspective and past experience create the unique lens through which you see the present situation you are in. A lens that may be different from your significant other. This is why setting up the ground rules is so important. When you create a clear set of short and simple rules (i.e. No malicious attacks to make the other feel small) each of your will always feel safe and ready to address the issue at hand.
2. Stay Away From Absolutes (A): This is a tough one for me. Speaking in absolutes comes natural to me, but I’ve learned that if we want to be happily married controlling my tongue is very important. Avoid making statements such as “You always…” or “You never…” which most times are exaggerations. No one likes to be told they never or always do something, don’t add fuel to the fire when it’s not necessary.
3. Define The Win (B): As it relates to managing disagreements, both parties must have a clear understanding what a mutually beneficial outcome looks like. Annett and I have learned confusion, and misunderstandings are the leading culprits to heated arguments and breakdowns in our communication.
By first simply working together to bring clarity to the outcome, we defuse tension upfront and eliminate the defensiveness that is bred out of the fear of being the one who loses.
4. Be Present (A): Often times it’s easy to lose sight of the problem at hand. We drift back to last weeks or even last years fight. Doing this distracts you from solving the problem at hand.
Stay present! Staying present makes you deal with the here and now. The benefit to this is moving forward you’ll never have a need to bring up past unresolved issues, and you’ll be more effective at putting the current disagreement behind you for good.
5. Begin with the end in mind (B): This point is slightly different from “Defining The Win”. Many times we say things in the heat of the moment to win the argument and forget about the collateral damage that our words can cause. Just because you are right, does not give you the right to hurt your spouse.
As you are addressing the problem always be mindful of how you desire the other person to feel once you both have solved the issue together. Winning an argument is never better than addressing the problem in a mature way that honors the self esteem and self efficacy of the other person. Problems come and go. Your relationship should always be bigger than your challenges.
6. Lose to Win (A): Talk about humility. This is a difficult pill to swallow, especially for an Olympian who loves to win! But early in our marriage I realized that sometimes I would fight for the “win” at all costs. No matter what it took, right or wrong, I had to win.
I soon learned that what was more important than winning was a sound and happy marriage, and that my mate wasn’t crushed after an argument. Sometimes this meant not being so hell bent on making sure he knew I was right.
What’s so bad about being wrong? What’s so bad about losing an argument? It’s the perfect chance to say “I’m sorry” and truly mean it. Now, I’m not saying to always back out, just remember that you and your hubby are a team. If you choose this path, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Which is because you are valuing the relationship more than another win in your record book (the one you shouldn’t be keeping anyway).
7. Be Mindful Of Your Spouses Personality (B): Like experiences, your spouse’s personality can often impact the emotional tension of the present situation. When personalities clash it’s very easy to get distracted, turning your focus away from the problem and onto the other person. Your spouse’s personality should not be a surprise to you. If their personality is loud and demonstrative, the chances are very good that they will be loud and demonstrative when things get heated.
The last thing you want to do is attack their personality right in the middle of a spat. If their behavior is making you feel bad say something like, “I know you don’t mean to put me down, but when you express your point this way I can’t help but feel attacked when I know we both want what’s best.” By remembering the other person’s personality you give yourself permission to not take things too personally, and honor both the other person and yourself at the same time.
8. Control Your Tone (A): A conversation can go from a simple disagreement to a full on war in a matter of minutes if you begin to speak louder. Sure we all get irritated. Yes I know you want your point to be heard, but just because you get louder doesn’t make the other person ‘hear’ you.
What actually happens when we raise our voice is the other person starts to get more upset, and begins to shut down (and shut you out). Most times they will then raise their voice to be ‘heard’ over you and as a consequence no one is actually heard at all. Master yourself by controlling your tone and the outcome can come to a happier conclusion much faster. This is the only way your partner will truly hear you.
9. Be Tough On The Problem & Not On The Person (B): Always remember, as my Granny used to always say, “everything is figure-out-able!” No matter how challenging the problem is, inherent in every problem are the keys to its own solution. The trick is to work the problem and support the other person through the process. It is very easy to allow your frustration with the problem to spill over onto the other person.
No matter the origins of the problem, or who is technically at fault, take advantage of the fact that when both parties take full ownership of the situation grace, humility, and mutual respect automatically cause your love for each other to deepen -and a new level of intimacy will actually be experienced while you both get tough on the problem together.
10. Finish Well (A): When we have our disagreements we always like to recap to make sure that there are no loose ends. We never walk out on the discussion until it’s completely over. Even if you chose to voluntarily lose the fight make sure you aren’t holding on to resentment or play the martyr. In addition, if you have messed up and yelled at your spouse, or fired some unkind words don’t leave the conversation without asking for forgiveness.
Before you leave the room make sure you both acknowledge your love for one another, and if you are a prayerful person go ahead and pray together. Later on that night, go ahead and get your groove on remembering that a fight is only momentary, but your love and your marriage will always stand the test of tough times.
YOUR TURN: What are some other great rules of engagement that you’ve lived by to help you get through tough times together? Leave your comments below.