Marriages begin and marriages end but in between falls love, anger, and eventually, dislike or even hatred. Couples who have stayed together for many years seem to all say the same thing: you have to both be dedicated, you have to learn to forgive, and you have to be willing to love, no matter what. Young couples who pledge their undying love to each other often find themselves splitting up after a sudden, heated argument. Things are said that can’t be forgiven and sometimes there’s no repairing the damage.
To give your marriage better odds to survive an argument learn how to argue fairly. Most people, when arguing, have a tendency to blame the spouse for whatever has upset them. Experts say that this is a major part of why arguments lead to divorces. In addition, couples often threaten each other with anything from leaving to revealing secrets to others, during an argument. These threats and accusations are what eventually become unforgivable and lead to further problems in the marriage.
There are classes that can teach a couple how to argue fairly but basically you choose an argument which is irrelevant to yourselves, then practice. For example, decide on an argument for practice, like golfing, if neither of you golf. One of you take the stance that you’re going golfing whether your mate wants you to or not. The other partner can take the stance of not wanting the spouse to golf because the spouse promised other things for that day.
Arguing fairly is something that must be learned. Begin the argument by setting a timer so the argument will end at a set time. Don’t argue over something too close to your own situation or it could very well turn into a real argument. Say things that you think you would say if it were a real argument, but replace the accusations with stated feelings: “I know I said I would mow the grass, but this is my only opportunity to play this week.” or “I’m tired of being lied to”. The real effort is to avoid sentences that start with “You…”. The word “you” implies that the other person is at fault. Stick with sentences that begin with “I”: “I don’t like being alone on Saturday mornings” or “I hate it when you go golfing”. Beginning the sentences with the word “I” makes it more of a statement about how you yourself are feeling.
During the argument state facts and don’t bring up things from the past unless they are relevant to this argument. Since you know your partner better than anyone else appeal to his or her particular attributes. If your partner has a strong sense of fair play make arguments that would appeal to this side of him or her. If your spouse is a sports nut but is the one that wants you to forfeit the game for the day, ask how he or she would feel if prevented from going to his or her own sports activities.
Offer alternatives during the argument: “What if I go golfing now and mow the yard when I get home?” To the one who must concede, offer a little extra: “And if you agree to that, even though I know I promised you I would mow this morning, I’ll mow the yard and paint the garage door when I get home”. This shows that you know the mate is conceding to something on which you broke your word. It tells the mate that you do feel badly for changing your mind and breaking your word and are willing to do a little extra to make up for it. But, don’t just make empty promises. Plan to keep your word upon your return home.
Arguments can get loud but try to keep this one more low-key. As a matter of fact, arguing in quieter tones helps to keep arguments under control. The quieter methods don’t lend to anger as quickly as does yelling. Also, try to avoid cursing since sometimes it can get out of control and before you know it, you’ve said things you can’t take back.
When the argument is over, that is, the timer has gone off, go to separate rooms. Or, one or both of you go for a drive – separately. It’s a good idea to contemplate all that was said, reviewing if you were accusatory or said unfair things. Take into consideration what was said to you. Were valid points made that you didn’t process at the time? Reflecting after an argument can be very beneficial. Often, after each person has time to reflect following a true argument, they can see where they said hurtful things or where they were being too stubborn at the time. Sometimes all it takes is a little time for cooling off before a compromise can be reached between the parties.
Practice controlling yourself while having real arguments and your marriage will more likely withstand the wear and tear. Remember to state things in a this-is-how-I-feel manner and avoid accusatory words and tones. Apologize if you see where you were behaving unreasonably – after you’ve had time to reflect. Being the first to apologize doesn’t mean you were the only one who was wrong.
Marriages only withstand the years if both parties are actively trying to keep the marriage alive and well. If one partner always does the apologizing and always gives in, the other will soon have grudges to bear. And if you promise things during an argument, especially to entice the other to concede, keep your promises or there will be even more trouble later.
If you cherish your marriage you will work with your partner, not against him or her. Try practice arguments on a regular basis until you feel you are developing fair arguing techniques. Some may scoff, but your marriage will be much better in the long run.