by Aja Dorsey Jackson
There is a good deal of advice about how to get along in a marriage, but far less advice on how to disagree. The reality is that you are never going to agree 100 percent on everything with your spouse so it is inevitable that at some point the two of you will clash. Given that the occasional argument can be expected, wouldn’t it also make sense for us to learn how to disagree? After all, I don’t know of any couple that ever started to have problems because they were getting along. Good times will always be good times, but the true tests of marriage often happen when we fight.
Early on, my husband and I did one of the best things I think we could have done for our marriage; we made rules for our arguments. We realized at some point that every disagreement we had turned into a downward spiral of yelling, not speaking and generally immature behavior. At that point we sat down and talked about what we could do to make our arguments more productive. Here are the main things we agreed upon:
Focus on the issue at hand We try to limit our conversation during an argument to the disagreement that we are having at that moment. For instance, if we are disagreeing about ways to cut back on bills, the conversation that we are having should be about our financial situation right now. Arguing about the time I loaned him money in 2005 or the day that I said something that got on his nerves last week are not allowed to be a part of the argument. If there is an unresolved issue that doesn’t have anything to do with what we are dealing with at that moment we have to talk about it another time.
No hurtful words We have never been ones for name-calling, but I would be lying if I said that we never said things solely for the purpose of hurting each other during an argument. This comes from trying to win the argument rather than working toward a real solution. The problem is that once someone gets hurt, they are far less likely to listen to a concern and much more likely to get defensive or respond with an insult. The goal in mind should be to work toward a resolution that makes us stronger as a couple instead of to tear the other person down.
Reschedule the Argument If things are getting particularly heated we can agree to disagree and stop talking about the issue for the moment. The key to making this successful is that we to set up a future time that we will talk about the issue within the next 24 hours. This gives us a chance to cool down and think about what we want to say to one another without leaving our issues completely unresolved.
We are human, so of course there are occasions where we stray from the list in the heat of an argument, but the guide has helped us keep our arguments from spiraling out of control.
Do you have fighting rules? What are they? If you don’t what would they be?
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