How to turn an argument with your spouse into a productive discussion
The changing face of a couples argument.
Couples often argue, it’s only natural and common issues include: how much time they spend together, how they find that time (especially when they have kids), financial issues and sexual issues.
A common disagreement occurs over sexual issues: how often they are going to be sexual, what type of sexual encounters they have and when that can happen. A lot of couples struggle with this, especially as their lives just get busier and busier and stress and exhaustion tend to eat up the romantic level of a relationship.
Arguing with your spouse is never a pleasant experience, but for many couples, it can be extremely grueling because neither party understands what the other is after. So imagine that the next time you have an argument with your spouse (there are unfortunately times when an argument can’t be avoided) you knew that the two of you were going to accomplish something positive for your marriage, with the resolution coming from conflict.
To have a productive argument, and realistically change that situation from an argument to a discussion, make sure you are arguing about the same thing. What you are discussing is often not why you are actually angry. While both of these aspects of an argument are important, it’s vital to the success of a discussion that you address them separately.
Write down what you feel the argument is about. If you feel it stems from a bigger issue, write that down too. Put these items on separate pieces of paper.
Take turns stating your position. This is not to win or lose the argument, it’s to enlighten your spouse about your position. Don’t do anything other than explain what you have written, making a clear distinction between the present issue and the larger issue, if there is a distinction. For example, you may be arguing over whose job it is to take out the rubbish; that is the present issue. However, if one of you feels that the other doesn’t do enough around the house or express enough appreciation for chores done well, that is the larger issue.
Establish your ideal solution. Under each issue, write down what you feel would be resolved if you got your way entirely. For example, you might feel that the rubbish argument would be over if your spouse would simply empty the bin every other day. The larger issue, however, will not be resolved by a rubbish schedule. It might be settled by a standard list of assigned chores and a greater effort to thank both parties for their hard work.
Share your ideal solutions. Don’t interrupt no matter how tempting it is. Remember, both of you have the same goal: to resolve the argument in a productive manner so that the issue doesn’t arise again. Pay attention to what your spouse says the bigger issue is, it could be a simple behaviour change on your part to alleviate tension. For example, if the big issue appears to have a lot to do with under-appreciation, simply saying, "I'm sorry that I have not been appreciative. I’d be lost without your help, and I'll try to make sure that you know how much I value you," can relieve a lot of tension between two parties.
Focus on the present. Even when you’re dealing with the bigger issues, don’t incorporate past, unrelated bad behavior even if you have historically been able to use it as a ‘trump card’ to end a fight.
Agree on a solution. Once you have reached a compromise, both of you should rephrase the compromise in your own words to make sure that you are on the same page.
End on a positive note. This encourages both parties to act on their part of the resolution. Even if you’re no longer angry, and especially if you still are, tell your spouse how much you hate fighting with them and how important it is that they are happy.
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