This was a guest post on another site early last year.
Everyone, at times, has disagreements. How boring would life be if everyone agreed all of the time? How you handle those disagreements may mean disaster.
This is particularly true when you are arguing with your spouse. You spend most non-working moments with this one person, this wonderful, loving, infuriating person. Your emotions will naturally run high while discussing the things you care most about with the person you care most about. Arguments are not only natural, but inevitable.
How do you have an argument with someone you love without lasting resentment?
You have to argue fairly. There are a few principles to remember during an argument.
- When your partner is talking, your job is to listen with all of your energy. You are not interrupting. Your are not planning your rebuttal while waiting for your turn to talk. Your are listening, nothing else. If you don’t listen, you can’t understand. If you don’t understand, you can’t find a resolution.
- Remember that your partner cares. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t feel so strongly about the argument. This isn’t a war, just an argument. She still wants to spend the rest of her life with you. Keeping this in mind will change the entire tone of the argument into a positive interaction. You will still disagree, but you will be looking for a solution together, instead of finding a “win” at any cost.
- Search for the best intent. Remember #2? There is an incredibly good chance that, if there are two ways to interpret something your partner has said–a good way and a bad way–your partner probably meant the good way. Even if you are wrong, it is far better to err on the side of resolution than the side of antagonism.
- When your partner has finished speaking, it’s still not your turn to argue. Your job now is to repeat your understanding of the issue, without worrying about problem-solving. Before you can refute the argument–or even establish your disagreement–you have to know that you understand her position and she has to know that you do. Without understanding, there can be no path to resolution that doesn’t cause resentment. If you have too much resentment, you won’t have a marriage.
After all of this, it will finally be your turn to make your point. Hopefully, your partner will be following the same rules so you can solve your problems together, without learning to hate each other.
Arguments in your marriage aren’t–or shouldn’t be–intended to draw blood. Fights happen. If your goal is to win at any cost, you will both lose, possibly everything.