How to Fight with Your Spouse: Tips for Young Couples and Newly Weds
Young couples in our faith are often given advice before they are married. We tell them how to respect their husbands or how to love their wives. We tell them to guard their hearts and “bounce their eyes”. All good advice. But something we newly weds aren’t adequately prepared for is this:
How can a new couple deal with arguing in their relationship?
Well, I am on a quest to learn how to talk. My husband is a natural communicator, but saying what I mean has never been a strong suit of mine. Which is particularly unhelpful in the midst of a disagreement.
On my quest, I found myself flipping through my husband’s workplace manual. In this manual, there were steps for communicating during conflict in the workplace. They were simple, concise, and seemed like they could work. So I gave it a try in my personal life.
The last time my husband and I fought, our “fight” turned out to be so low key that I gave him a kiss afterwards. It was a big deal for me since I usually get pretty emotional.
“We ‘re getting good at fighting.” I laughed.
But really, we weren’t “fighting”. We were effectively communicating and dealing with conflict, just like I’d read in the manual.
I realized that if couples were taught to solve problems with the simple steps of conflict resolution, there would probably be less fighting among couples. Life is too short to be mad at your partner all the time. And the scripture encourages us to control our temper.
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32
Gideon and I aren’t perfect and we fight sometimes, but a recent goal of ours is to aim for effective communication rather than arguments.
Here are some things that I’m learning on my journey to effective communication during an disagreement:
When conflict arises, “negative” emotions are mixed in: discontentment, confusion, fear, anger. With these emotions we can either choose to express them in a constructive way or we can express them in a childish way. Adults who poorly express their negative emotions use NON effective communication such as:
2. Name calling
3. Inflammatory language
4. Destructive behavior
Usually people who use these kinds of expressions have been doing so for awhile, which makes it difficult to develop better ways. I know from my own personal experience.
Proverbs 25:28 “A man without self control is a city broken into and left without walls.”
The first step to constructively resolving conflict is to be very aware your feelings and how you are presenting yourself.
We communicate more with our body language than with our words. Be aware of what signals a negative attitude. Crossed arms, clenched fists and frowning don’t show that you are ready to communicate. Aggressive body language creates a hostile feeling. Try to relax your face and keep your arms off your chest.
2.Be very specific when you speak.
Try to avoid extra words and explanations. If you don’t say exactly what you’re thinking, your partner won’t know. You can take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Something I have recently found helpful is sticking to this simple sentence structure:
When you did ____ I felt_____.
Fill in the blanks with the action and your emotion.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1
3. Listen actively.
Active listening is a difficult skill to utilize during the heat of a disagreement. Often times, we think we already know the gist of what our partner is saying. So, while they are speaking, we are mentally preparing our next line instead of trying to understand their position.
The second you realize you are preparing rather than listening, you need to make a conscious effort to shift your focus from your thoughts to your partners words. Try concentrating on the words and putting yourself in their shoes. Even if you still don’t agree, you can give them the respect of listening with the intent of understanding.
4. You are on the same team.
You may not be on the same side at the moment, but ultimately you’re on the same team. Eventually you will have to figure something out. This too shall pass.
5. Focus on coming up with a solution.
It’s easy to get lost and caught up in perceived insults or how someone phrased something. Stick to the matter at hand. If you find the discussion is getting away from you, you will need to go back to your simple sentence structure.
When you do____ it makes me feel___.
Both of you can list possible solutions to the problem and weigh pros and cons.
Conflict will arise in any solid relationship. Learning to deal with it properly could help dissolve a lot of it. Remember, life is too short to be mad all the time. Find a solution.