Arguments are an inevitable part of marital life. Most of us have heated discussions with those we are closest to us, and that particularly holds true with our spouses. However, while arguments may sometimes be unavoidable, letting matters get out of hand is not. If you find yourself in a verbal altercation, use these tips to defuse the argument and return you to a place of peace and calm where you can rationally discuss your differences.
1. Listen. In most arguments, neither side is completely right or completely wrong. Your partner probably does have a point. If you can learn to see their perspective, you will understand why they are angry or upset. This will allow you to give a little ground and move toward a positive agreement. Many fights boil down to a misunderstanding. You not even be arguing about the same thing. Slow down and listen and you may find your differences are less significant than you thought.
2. Calm down. Many arguments that should be minor can quickly blow up because both parties let their emotions get the better of them. In the heat of the moment, cruel, damaging words can be spoken that will later be deeply regretted. Avoid such mistakes by staying as calm as possible. This is hard to do, so one good idea is to take a break from the discussion if you feel your anger rising. Do something relaxing and stress-reducing before returning to the conversation.
3. Accept your differences. Ideally, all arguments would end with both sides agreeing and walking away happy. In the real world, some differences cannot realistically be solved. One of the keys to conflict management is learning when to recognize a “lost cause”. If neither of you is going to budge, then humbly end the conversation and move on.
For example, many happily married couples have learned that there are certain topics they should not discuss. Perhaps politics, or the behavior of a relative. It helps if you can accept that some problems in your marriage are not solvable.
4. Stick to the topic. An argument about who forgot to take out the trash should not be used as an excuse to insult your spouse’s character. When you are irritated it is easy for the scope of a fight to broaden, and for the dispute to become a chance for both sides to vent their annoyance on any and all topics. This will just cause pain and will not help solve the original problem. If you must argue, at least stay focused on the matter at hand. The more the argument centers on specifics, the better the chance for a peaceful outcome.
5. Stop caring about 'winning'. When couples get into big arguments, their egos can get in the way of a resolution. Sometimes a dispute of miniscule proportions will continue for hours because each partner wants to 'win' the argument and prove the other person wrong. Of course, this only makes matters worse. Remember, harsh fighting is a lose-lose scenario for a marriage. You will ultimately be happier if you back down or just agree to disagree.
Trying to win the argument will only make reconciliation harder.
6. Watch your body language and tone. Painful, destructive confrontations do not just consist of hurtful words and insults. Shouting and screaming or an aggressive, standoffish stance can do just as much damage as harsh words spoken. Sometimes, without even noticing, a person will raise their tone or adopt a belligerent stance. Pay attention to how you hold yourself, and speak in a calm, neutral, polite voice. Whatever the nature of the discussion, maintaining a friendly attitude will indicate that you do not want the argument to escalate.
Share and discuss these techniques with each other. The two of you will probably still get into arguments, but at least you will have a method for minimizing unnecessary insults and resolving it without lingering bad feelings.
If you find that you keep engaging in repeated, negative patterns of fighting, professional help is always available to get you on the right track.