Last Friday, I gave birth to my daughter, so I'll be taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy that newborn smell and figure out how to be a mom of two. I have some amazing ladies guest posting over the next few weeks. I hope you'll check out their blogs and get to know them!
My husband and I are coming up on our two year anniversary and I can hardly believe how much time has passed. The first couple years of marriage are a very special time and it amazes me to see how far we have come, but I’ll also be the first to admit that these years can be hard. Learning to live and do life with another person brings up challenges in areas we’ve never before experienced. From preferences on how the dishwasher is loaded, to whose family we get to see at Christmas, all these little details are new terrain. Never before have we had to prioritize another person’s wants and needs to this degree and it doesn’t always come easy. But marriage can be hard in the best sense of the word. It’s the type of hard that refines and stretches us, but spits us out stronger, as a person, and as a team.
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in these first few years of marriage, is that arguments are inevitable, but how we disagree with our spouse matters.
I think that disagreements are actually a healthy part of being together and if we agreed on everything 100% of the time, someone probably isn’t being completely transparent. Although fights never fun, it is important to learn how to work through these moments together. Peter and I aren’t perfect and continue to learn to grow as a team. But here are some techniques we use when trying to respectfully get through a disagreement :)
Listening to understand, rather than to respond, has been a huge piece in our conflict-resolution strategy. It is so easy to go into defense mode and just look for reasons why your partner’s side of the story is wrong. Or, what I’m also guilty of, planning a response to their points instead of taking into consideration what they have to say. But this strategy tends to make neither person feel understood and prolongs the resolution process. Actually listen to why your spouse is upset and try to understand where they are coming from. Even if you completely disagree with them. This might sound like an obvious tip, but it is something that so quickly goes out the window in the heat of the moment. Truly listening will help move the conversation forward.
Validate before explaining
For me and Peter, conflict tends to stem from something along the lines of what we said isn’t what we meant. This gets us into a sticky situation because 1) we are frustrated that we were misunderstood and 2) we don’t feel the need to apologize because they were the ones who took it the wrong way (ha). But the key to this issue is to understand that despite the fact that we didn’t mean to hurt their feelings, we still did. It is important to validate your spouse’s emotions and apologize even if you didn’t mean to say something offensive. Once they feel like you understand why they were hurt, your partner will probably be more receptive to what you have to say.
Keep the conversation current
In the heat of the moment, it is so easy to bring up past squabbles that have nothing really to do with the current situation. The time he said that mean thing three months ago, or the time she forgot to do the favor you asked last week, doesn’t actually need to be brought up again. This prevents you from solving the current issue by sidetracking to something that was already resolved. Try and keep the conversation on the current issue.
Relationship before pride
One of the biggest issues with Peter and I is, that we are both very stubborn. Neither of us wants to be the person to bring up the conversation or say sorry first. We would rather just brood about how the other person isn’t bringing it up (ha). Seriously though, when we first got married we would spend hours in the same house in silence because neither of us wanted to be the one to bring it up or apologize. But this gets us nowhere. We have learned that we care about eachother more than our pride, and that everything gets resolved faster if we own up to our portion. This doesn’t mean taking all the blame for the issue, but simply saying I’m sorry for hurting you, and ask to open up a discussion.
Speak from logic, not emotion
In the heat of a disagreement, it is really hard to react from logic instead of emotion. But saying things out of emotional impulse really just makes the problem worse. It opens space for hurt feelings and regret. When things get really heated, sometimes the best course of action is to take a break from the conversation. Not in the sense that you storm off and stop talking to them, but to say hey, I think we are both pretty worked up. Let’s take 20 minutes to think this through and then come back to it. This will help you both have fresh eyes and less adrenaline when you revisit the conversation.
Bring up the little things
Sometimes it is important to pick your battles and let some things roll off your back. But other times, it’s important to bring up the little things to avoid resentment. It can get especially toxic when little things that were never brought up start to build up over time. Then one day you leave the cap off the toothpaste and it turns into world war three. It’s not fair to either of you when you don’t confront your spouse on the little things. You just keep getting angrier and they have no idea what they are even doing to annoy you. The conversation is much less emotional when it is brought up right away.
Learning how to disagree is a huge part of a successful marriage. And although it takes time, patience, and quite a bit of messing up, it is an important area to continue working on. What conflict resolutions strategies have worked for you?