Learn how to make your verbal disagreements with your partner more effective and fair
What not to do during a verbal fight with a spouse
A marriage wouldn’t be a marriage unless there was some conflict or disagreement. Couples who don’t disagree at some point in their relationship are simply not communicating. When many couples fight, they usually have one goal in mind: to win the fight. It is safe to say that with this objective in mind, nobody ever wins. During arguments, however, there is a way to fight fairly and effectively so that both members of the couple feel their feelings have been heard and processed. We’ll use the couple John and Mary as an example for the following argument guidelines.
Avoid the Past
It happens all the time. The fight starts because Mary has asked John repeatedly to clean the cat’s litter box before he heads out to work. Three weeks later he is still forgetting to clean the litter box, leaving Mary to pick up the slack. The argument begins over this matter, but if we fast forward twenty minutes later, Mary is in the middle of bringing up the incident two years ago when John forgot to pick her up at the airport. Let’s break this down. Two years ago, when John forgot to pick Mary up at the airport, she forgave him after realizing that he had a lot on his plate at that moment, what with the new job and the baby’s ear infection. What does bringing up this past incident accomplish? Nothing. What it DOES do is tell John that even when Mary said she forgave him, she really didn’t mean it. It also generalizes the argument to include all incidents of John’s forgetfulness which only makes John forget what it was they were initially fighting about. Do not stray to other topics or incidents, unless you want the focus of the initial argument to be forgotten.
John is angry because once again Mary has gone over her minutes in her cell phone plan, resulting in a bill over $200. “You always do this, Mary! You need to control yourself!” John tells Mary. By repeating the word “you” several times over the course of the argument, John has put Mary on the defensive. Instead of a discussion, in her eyes, he has launched an attack. John needs to learn to bring up the topic in a more sensitive manner. Instead of his earlier attack, he could have easily said, “Mary, we really need to try and keep our minutes down on our cell phone plan. Perhaps we can have some sort of daily log that will help us both keep track of our minutes or maybe we can just add more minutes to our plan?” By including himself and saying the word “we,” John has not put Mary in the defensive, thus, she will be more open to discussion.
For months, Mary has silently been harboring resentment towards John. The reason for this is that, for her birthday, John bought her two tickets to a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game when Mary had been dropping hints that she wanted a tennis bracelet. John has noticed Mary’s growing anger but has no idea why she is upset. By the time Mary brings it up, she blows the whole situation out of proportion. Never let your anger or disappointment linger for too long. Confront your partner immediately if you have these feelings because if you allow these feelings to grow, resentment inevitably sets in. You become resentful because your spouse should have “known better.” This is not fair to your spouse.