Yes, beautiful as it usually is, my face has sometimes looked like that! No matter how wonderful your marriage is, you’re bound to have disagreements with your spouse at least once in awhile. Unfortunately, we tend to get angriest at the people we love most, and this can lead to hurtful arguments that are more about our emotions than the issue that led to the disagreement. Taking a step back can help us prevent an argument from getting bigger than it needs to be. Over the past year, I’ve thought on multiple occasions of what helps me most when I get into an argument with my husband – I hope some of them can help you as well!
Being the first to reach out, apologize or “give in” doesn’t always mean you are “wrong” and your spouse is “right”. It means that you value your relationship more than your ego, and more than the issue at hand. This is something your spouse will recognize and appreciate. If you are in the wrong, which WILL happen (at least once in a while!), be willing to acknowledge it, and don’t worry – even the best of us are wrong sometimes!
You still love each other. Real love is present even when an argument goes on. You might not feel affection for each other in that moment, but that doesn’t mean you stop loving each other. This is important to remember in the heat of an argument when you can easily feel that you are being rejected (usually this is not the case – it’s only an idea or opinion being disputed, not YOU). Remembering that you are loved and remembering that you love your spouse can help you calm down a little and either 1) resolve the argument; 2) try a different approach or 3) just move on.
Not all arguments have a “right” and “wrong” side. Moral imperatives aside, there are often many right ways of thinking about things or doing things. An argument can be far more effective when you are more focused on understanding the other person’s perspective than you are on proving yourself right. Recognizing the value in the other’s opinion doesn’t lessen the value of your own. It broadens your horizons. The best arguments end with increased mutual understanding and increased self-understanding. When you both are up at arms, it’s likely that you and/or your spouse say things that hurt about each other. In hindsight, you know you didn’t mean them. But if you listen to what your spouse said, and leave the hurt aside, you’ll often realize that there was a grain of truth in what was said. This can help you both understand yourself better and be equipped to improve your relationship.
You aren’t there to change the other person or be changed by them. Value your differences. Granted, there are going to be things about each other that bother you, from little habits like how you do or don’t close the toothpaste, to bigger things like what you allow your kids to do. Nevertheless, try to value the differences you see in your spouse. You married each other the way you are, for better or worse and usually, arguments aside, it’s for the better. The same differences that drive you nuts are often also your spouse’s biggest strengths, and are sometimes the very traits that first attracted you to him. Discuss differences that really matter, but don’t make a big deal out of things just because your spouse is different than you are. Thank God that your spouse IS different than you – it expands your horizons, balances your relationship, and gives your kids two different good role models instead of just one.
Defensiveness doesn’t support your position. It just holds the other at bay and prevents you from effectively addressing the issue at hand. Challenging as it is, try to keep looking at the argument as an issue to be addressed, rather than as a personal attack.
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. I take this admonishment literally, and try never to let an argument continue into the following day. Maybe you can’t help arguments occurring, but you can definitely try to limit their scope and duration. When your arguments drag out for days, they start to have far reaching effects and can negatively affect your marriage by impairing communication, intimacy, and collaboration. Try to find a way to resolve your argument soon, before the day is up, so neither of you are left going to bed feeling rejected or uncertain regarding each other.
It’s OK to take some time out. Some of us naturally want to talk things through until we reach an agreement. This doesn’t always work. One or both of us might need to take some time out, to calm down, regroup and reconsider the argument from a more removed state. This can be a good thing, helping you put the argument back in perspective and differentiate between your emotions and your actual point of view. Let yourselves take time out and then come together again to address the issue.
There is often something bigger behind the argument. When you or your spouse explodes over a seemingly small incident, there is usually a bigger issue causing the reaction. If the larger issue goes unnoticed, you can easily have a cyclical, nonsensical argument with no effective resolution. Try to uncover the real issue, by probing your thoughts or feelings, until you can accurately explain what’s bothering you in a (hopefully) balanced manner.
Praying for all of you and your personal relationships during the coming year, hoping you are all able to resolve differences effectively and use them to strengthen your spousal and family bonds! Keep your chins up, and always remember that tomorrow is a new day: your argument will pass; your love will remain.