In the beginning of a relationship, and before your children are born, it’s fairly easy to accommodate to your spouse and to feel good about doing so. People can cover up their real feelings for quite some time. Initially, giving in to sidestep an argument doesn’t feel like too much to ask.
As time passes, and life gets more complicated, silently avoiding disagreements is a distant memory. Pretending to be interested or ignoring annoying habits becomes much more difficult. How was I ever able to let that go, you ask yourself. Barely able to contain your frustration you explode, “Stop doing that! You are driving me crazy!” To which your beloved replies, “I’ve always done that. It didn’t bother you when we were dating!”
Good times, love, and appreciation hold a relationship together. But the bad times also define it. Over the course of a committed relationship, harsh words will inevitably be spoken. Exactly what you say and how you say it make a huge difference, though.
It’s important to remember that hurtful words have long echoes.
Beginning arguments with “you” is probably the most automatic way they get started. We all begin from that point. “Look what you did to me.” As bickering progresses, listening isn’t your highest priority. You want your partner to see your side and neither of you are working especially hard at understanding the other’s point of view.
Find a New Perspective
Listen to your partner.
Think about what your partner is telling you, even if you don’t like how it was said.
Honestly consider your contribution to the problems you’re having
Quarrels will be more productive if you both have the dual agenda of expressing yourselves and understanding the other (instead of proving that you’re right and he or she is wrong).
A strong base of respect is also essential. Otherwise, you might say something you’ll be sorry for later. Trust and respect provide a baseline that keep you grounded when things get crazy. If that line is crossed, there’s a greater chance for it to be crossed again and again, leading to serious problems.
So protect your relationship and each other even when you’re both furious.
Basically, protecting the relationship means no name-calling, no belittling, no insulting, and no scaring one another. There should be no throwing or breaking things. It means not purposefully saying something just to be mean or hurtful. Yelling is kept to a minimum. Screaming, sniping, or threatening to leave or divorce, just to get a rise out of your partner is also off limits.
Family life presumes a mixed bag of feelings. There will be times when you want to be close and other times when you don’t want anyone near you. One day you’re completely in love with your partner, and then there will be times you can’t stand him or her.
Managing these complexities of family life together is deeply rewarding. But there isn’t anything simple about it. Disagreements are actually wonderful opportunities to improve communication. Once things calm down, turn the “it’s you; it’s not me” argument into an “it’s you and it’s me” conversation.
Loren Buckner, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Tampa, Florida. She is also the author of ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal with Them.