Guess what? Men and women are different. Shocking, I know. The culture doesn’t want you to think that or consider it when you deal with the opposite sex, but the truth is the truth. Those of us who inwardly (yes, inwardly… if we want to live) roll our eyes when the wife can’t find “anything to wear” from her packed closet of clothes know this, as do women who don’t understand why their husbands get upset when their sports team loses a big game.
Because of this and a million other factors, you will spend a percentage of your marriage arguing with your spouse. You just will. Anyone married for more than a month who tells you they’ve never been in a marital argument is either lying or one or the other partner is SEVERELY repressing. It’s inevitable, like gravity, death, and Obama making a gun control pitch as soon as there’s a mass shooting. You are two different people, and no matter how much you love each other and no matter how many dating “daisy fields” you both pranced through hand in hand amidst fluttering butterflies and hopping bunnies, unless one or the other of you becomes a doormat (which I DON’T recommend!), you will argue over big things, small things, and which corner of the living room the Christmas tree should go in.
That said, as a general principle, one should never underestimate the value of simply getting along. Arguing is sometimes necessary, but it’s definitely stressful and quite the opposite of fun. Without becoming a doormat or compromising your deeply held principles, you should seek to spend most of your time in communion with your significant other.
However, if you do find yourself spending too much of your time arguing, it doesn’t mean you aren’t meant for each other and you should go looking for an affair on the side, it just means you aren’t arguing correctly! That’s why conflict resolution is one of the most important tools in your marriage toolbox. It’s not that you won’t argue, but when you do it’s important to do it right, with literally the minimum amount of “fuss.”
Stick to the issue – In the heat of an argument, resist the temptation to bring up the laundry list of other problems you have with your spouse. It may seem like a convenient way to get it all in “while you’re at it,” but it’s really counter productive. Plus, your spouse likely has a similar laundry list. See where this is heading? Define the parameters of the issue you’re discussing and keep your comments within those parameters. If one or the other of you steps out of line, call them on it.
Don’t raise your voice – In any human interaction, tone is everything. You can say the exact same thing in a calm, loving, measured tone and it will be taken in an entirely different way than if you yelled the same words. Keep your voice down and talk to your spouse with respect.
Don’t bring up the past – Maybe you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve been angry at your spouse for making the exact same mistake over and over again. If you’re surprised by this, you shouldn’t be. Guess what? We’re all sinners who each suffer from our own unique deficiencies, and human nature says we’ll tend to repeat those same mistakes. Give each other grace, and try not to bring up the past when discussing the here and now.
Validate your spouse – Even if I could muster up my admittedly limited “guy empathy meter” to its maximum capacity in an attempt to even begin to understand why my wife is upset at some seemingly (to me) trivial event, or why she wants the bed to be made a certain way, or why she steadfastly refuses to let me wear white socks with my khakis… even then, I’ll never completely “get it” because I’m not in her shoes (and yet, she still tells me what shoes to wear… go figure). Still, the efforts we make at understanding and validating our spouse’s point of view will go a long ways toward resolving the conflict we are having.
Sometimes, the most powerful words in a marriage are a sincere, “I understand where you are coming from.”
Avoid universal statements – Now really, does your husband “never” make the bed or “always” leave the toilet seat up? OK, maybe those aren’t the greatest examples, but using statements like “you always do this” or “you never do that right” or “you screwed up yet again” are universal statements that are generally not true and thus are counterproductive. And even if they are true, there is likely a more tactful way to bring it up.
Never name call, mock or deride – In scientific studies attempting to predict divorce, observable contempt in spousal interactions (i.e. eye-rolling) has been determined to be a solid predictor. Name calling and mocking, while it may be tempting in the heat of the moment, shows a lack of respect for your spouse and can only make the argument worse, not better. Don’t do it!
Never question the relationship – No matter how bad an argument may get, no matter how frustrated you are, no matter how many mistakes you have made not only in the events leading up to the argument but in the argument itself, never, ever question your relationship and your standing with each other. Satan wants you to hold the “D” word as a nuclear option, a “solve everything” card should things not be exactly to your liking. Don’t give the “D” word any legitimacy by ever bringing it up in a conversation or as an option to your spouse. Regardless of the moment, your commitment to your marriage should never waver.
Ultimately, that commitment will be the foundation that will get you to the other side of even the worst disagreements.