If you have been listening to relationship advice, I am sure you have been told that communication is key to a successful relationship. You are encouraged to express your deepest emotions as a way of deepening the bond between you and your partner.
But have you ever tried to raise an issue with your partner and everything went south? What was meant to be a calm expression of feelings suddenly became a heated argument, and you both ended up hurt, resentful and disengaged?
Or are you in a relationship with a resilient super-competitive person where it’s impossible to win an argument? Does your partner feel like a huge boulder that relentlessly comes after you?
If any of this is true, you need to read on.
Arguments that escalate are ugly and harmful to your relationship. I have first-hand experience. The truth is that trying to prove how wrong your spouse is or how right you are, is detrimental to your union. Don’t be obsessed with trying to fix your partner’s weaknesses. Trying to do so will leave you hurt and create resentment between you and them.
The following are six lessons that I have learned in the course of my marriage that can help you avoid reaching a dead end in your arguments:
- Choose Your Battles Carefully
Not everything is worth fighting about. Don’t be the kind of a person that hovers over your partner looking for a fault. Allow some mistakes to pass. I call that grace. I believe that some things are not a threat to your marriage or your life. If you find yourself picking a fight over how your spouse buttons his shirt, hangs the towel after a bath, the fact that he/she can’t distinguish low-fat from high-fat milk, then you may have control issues.
Extending grace will ensure that next time you have a real concern, your partner will be more willing to listen. Some matters are non-issues, so let them pass.
- Process Your Emotions First
Before you erupt on your spouse, take time to understand what you are feeling, and why you are feeling it. Are you angry, frustrated, or disappointed? What specific thing did your spouse do to trigger these emotions? You may be surprised that your spouse’s actions have no connection with what you are feeling, therefore averting the need for a confrontation.
Don’t bombard your partner with unclear emotions. Processing your feelings puts you in a state of calmness where you can address issues objectively.
- Avoid Character Assassination
Distinguish the sinner from the sin. Do not say things like “You are such a disappointment. I wonder how I ended up with you.” That hurts.
Avoid hitting below the belt. The fact that you are hurt by something that your partner said does not give you a leeway to bring up painful unrelated issues just to hit back for the pain caused. Talk about a specific incidence and how it made you feel without dragging the whole person into the mess.
- Drop the Matter
While it is important to raise issues that bother you in a relationship, it is equally essential to drop them as soon as they are resolved. I like to say, “drop it while it is still hot.” Forgiveness is a choice. Sometimes no matter how honest your partner is in explaining their behavior, you may find that you still have doubts about an explanation that was given.
If you are not careful, this matter will continue simmering in your heart, and before you know it, a big tree of doubt will grow. Raising the same issue over and over again will create a big rift between you and your spouse. We all love to be forgiven. Once a matter has been addressed, let it go.
If your partner was not honest in their explanation, just hold your horses. The same issue will show up again somewhere along the way, then you will have a solid ground to question.
- Raise the Bar
If your partner is the kind that curses, lies, and insults, refuse to be dragged along that path. Make a prior decision to maintain your calm. Stick to discussing what is essential and resist the sideshows.
Maintain what you know to be true even when your partner tells a blatant lie. Don’t snap in the heat of the moment. Refuse to fuel the negative energy. You will be surprised at how consistently maintaining your calm will affect your spouse’s behavior and the course of your relationship.
- Take it Easy
Your partner’s mistakes do not necessarily mean the end of the relationship. You may be disappointed when you discover your Prince Charming’s not so lovely tendencies. It’s okay to be taken aback when you find out that your angel is not so angelic. But hey, we all have a dark side. What if we try to accommodate our partner’s weaknesses and celebrate their strengths?
When its all said and done, take care of yourself. Get out of harm’s way if your partner’s behavior is life-threatening or emotionally damaging.