All relationships have conflict sometimes. Yes, every single one of them. Let’s face it, no one lives in a magical fairy tale land where everything is sunshine and rainbows 24/7. You will not always agree with your spouse and that’s okay! But knowing how to move through those disagreements together and come out stronger on the other side of an argument is a genuine skill that takes patience and practice. Here are some things to keep in mind when you and your partner just can’t seem to get on the same page.
Wait It Out
Part of knowing how to wisely disagree with your spouse is knowing that it’s all in the timing. If you know you’re encountering a sensitive or emotional topic, it might be wise to wait and discuss it at a later time. For example, if you know you always fight about your daughter’s hockey schedule, it’s obvious that you shouldn’t talk about it at the rink, sure, but it also might be wise not to discuss on the way to or from practice, either. Maybe you could talk about it in the early morning or in an evening after watching a TV show, instead.
Waiting to discuss a subject until a time when there’s a little more emotional distance can completely make or break the conversation. Giving a little bit of space around the topic can be helpful for all parties to be able to view the situation in a more collaborative, problem-solving light rather than seeing it as a fight.
If you’re able, start a tough conversation while you’re in close, comfortable physical proximity—maybe holding hands, sitting with your hand on your partner’s leg, or snuggling next to each other on the couch. That physical closeness can often strengthen your connection and keep the tone of the conversation more loving and secure, especially if the disagreement is particularly emotional for one or both parties. Simple physical touch like a hand hold is great because it can often help you feel as though you are still on the same team, even though you might not agree with each other in this particular moment in time.
Now this one I’m sure you’ve heard before, but that’s because it’s truly essential for arguing wisely with your partner. You must fight fair. This means no name calling, no cursing at each other, and no below-the-belt comments. Your partner is likely the person on earth who knows you the best, and vice versa—this means you can cause a lot of genuine, lasting damage to your relationship by misusing what you know about each other. As tempting as it may be, during an argument you should never use trusted information against your partner. And, of course, it is absolutely never, ever okay for an argument to get physically harmful in any way. If you are in a situation where it has, please seek help at The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Take Some Space and Give Some Space
Since working through disagreements can be a very emotional experience, realize that you and your partner may need to get some space from each other to clear your thoughts or take a breather. This is not a bad thing and can be a very healthy choice if the discussion is getting heated. Feel free to take that space if you need it, but also be sure to allow your spouse some as well. If they are communicating that they need to leave the room and take a break, give them that courtesy. The discussion can always be continued at a later time, and each of you knowing your limits is actually a very mature thing. Obviously leaving the room shouldn’t signify the end of the discussion forever, but a little space and time apart can help refocus the conversation when you’re both ready to continue.
Hold Your Tongue
Obviously you need to have support systems around you, and if you’ve just had an argument with your partner and need to discuss it with someone, you absolutely should. However, be wary of who you choose to discuss these sensitive matters with. Sometimes we all need to vent to our best friend about an annoying conversation, absolutely, but telling all of your friends and family about what a jerk your husband is because he didn’t take the trash out yesterday will do nothing but cause stress in your relationship. Although you might be over it twenty minutes later, often the people you speak to will have that impression burned into their minds, and it may affect how they feel about or treat your partner.
Worse still would be announcing or posting things about your spouse on social media; not only is this embarrassing and juvenile, but it can actually cause more stress to your relationship in the future, as it is a total breach of trust and privacy. Seek support when you need it, absolutely, but make sure you’re actually seeking support and not just venting (or posting!) out of anger or spite.
Conflict does not have to kill your relationship. In fact, approaching things calmly and respectfully using the tips above can actually make your relationship stronger and more solid than ever!