Updated: Mar 22, 2019
We all do it. It's a rather normal part of marriage. So why not learn how to argue better?
When I say "argue better", that doesn't mean getting the last word in and winning the situation, but rather having a discussion that does not end in hurting each other, and is more constructive and resolving than a shouting match.
Fortunately, I got the luck of the draw in the husband world. It's a very rare occasion in which my goofy, sweet and generally calm mannered husband and I get into a heated argument, not to say there are not times where one of us makes a snappy comment and those hurt feelings still arise.
So when a conflict does arise, here are some ways to handle a discussion that won't get out of hand.
Here's an example problem that occurs in our house, and maybe in yours as well.
In our home I like to keep our living areas, like our kitchen, in a general state of tidy.
Now, my sweet husband, has a tendency to leave a trail after using the kitchen. Whether its dishes on the counter, food packaging, spills, you can tell when he's been around. If it was a one time occurrence, I would probably just let it slide, but it's happened on more than a few occurrences, sometimes right after I've just gotten the kitchen cleaned and there comes a point when I reach my tipping point.
Ah. The fun part. Your husband has just done something to upset you and now you get unleash your fury on him.
Or, maybe not.
Let's talk about the ways we could handle this:
I guarantee we've all done this at some point, myself included. The Silent Treatment. The big gun in a wife's arsenal that leaves husbands in total oblivious confusion of why we won't speak to them in full sentences. Pair with evil glares and he'll probably start vacuuming the living room (because he'll think that's why you're upset).
As we may think this is a great way to let our husbands know we are not happy with them, it's really not. It's not constructive in any way and it just prolongs the situation letting all those negative feelings inside you build up to an unreasonable level. Then when you do finally clue him in to why you are upset, it makes you sound silly and trivial for letting such a small thing go on for so long and making a bigger deal of it than really necessary in the grand scheme of things.
The "NEVER" + "ALWAYS" Statements
"You NEVER clean up the kitchen!" " I'm ALWAYS cleaning up after you!"
Yeah, those goodies.
We may feel them in the moment, but I'm most certain that they are not true. Saying such statements of finality makes us come across as over-reactors and set's us up for backlash when hubby does a load of laundry or picks up his socks off the floor. It's not a constructive method of reacting nor does it look good on a us.
I know for a fact that my husband does help in the cleaning (washing dishes specifically because he knows I despise it). So if he sets a dirty spoon on the counter and doesn't clean it up, coming at him with a "I'm ALWAYS cleaning up after you!" statement isn't exactly accurate.
Short + Snappy
I think of this as the 0 to 100 reaction. Everything is peachy and then some small thing tips you off and you react (usually without thinking first) with a short, aggressive, sassy, snappy, and ultimately hurtful jab at the hubby. This is one way of handling things if you want your husband to think of you as unpredictable, spastic and has to tip toe around your emotions.
Once again, not a constructive way to handle a situation and really just ends up tearing down our husbands self-esteem. If I dished out a harsh and sassy comment every time the husband left his hot sauce sitting on the counter rather than putting it away, he would probably get the point and start putting it away, but is that really the way I want to get him to do something?
The good part. How should we really handle the things that bug us?
Stop + Think
This is a teacher tactic we use with kids in school. Yes, kids. Because as adults, one would think we have the common sense to think before we speak, but we don't. When the emotions bubble up and explode, that capability of filtering our thoughts seems to elude us.
It's imperative in any healthy relationship to stop and think. Think about how what you are about to say will make him feel (How would it make you feel if it was said to you?). Will that snarky comment make you feel better? Will putting in him down solve your problem?
The answer is no. You'll feel guilty for being a jerk. As you should.
If I decided that my husband leaving his hot sauce out on the counter, again, was the last straw and I decided to give him a jab comment like "Dang it, why can't you manage to just put stuff away after you're done?" He's left just as upset as I am and neither one of us would probably really enjoy the rest of our evening together.
If we consider what we say as well as how we say it, you may be pleasantly surprised with how the rest of the discussion, and future discussions, will proceed.
Keep It Easy Breezy
In our regular lives, my husband and I's interactions tend to be silly, fun and goofy. We like to laugh with each other so that's usually how it goes. When it comes to having a discussion, we take it seriously, but we also keep things light and easy. It keeps from things going down a dark path and prevents anything regrettable being said. We don't make a big deal out of small things and if it is a big deal, we keep it calm.
Keep Calm + Communicate
It's the cliche foundation of any relationship or marriage. Good communication. And I would have to agree. Communicating well fosters a closer, healthier relationship that is less prone to conflict.
Lets consider another scenario:
You are at work. A co-worker is constantly leaving file drawers open after she uses them. It would get pretty annoying after the hundredth time, especially if you happen to run into one as you walked by. Your reaction: "Crying out loud Nancy, close the file drawers, it's not that hard!"
You and Nancy are no longer on the best of terms and you still have to see each other everyday.
Or. You could have asked Nancy calmly and directly to be more mindful of shutting the drawers out of consideration to others in the office.
That's all it would really take and now you and Nancy are best buds and decide to take turns bringing in donuts on Fridays.
You wouldn't blow up and shout and Nancy, it ruins the relationship you two have. So why do we think we can blow up and shout at our husbands with no regard to their feelings, only going off our own raging emotions?
This is where we keep calm when we communicate. It promotes a productive discussion where problems get solved. Instead of the silent treatment or the "NEVER" "ALWAYS" statements. Speak calmly and clearly tell your husband what you are feeling and thinking. "Honey, I've noticed you tend to leave stuff out after you cook something, could you please try to clean up after yourself so the kitchen stays cleaner".
Now bear with me, husbands aren't perfect and you may have to say it more than once, but you can do this, because you're not perfect either and expecting perfection from him on the first go is unrealistic standards for anyone.
Have Your Feelings but Mind Your Tongue
Now I'm not saying hold all those feelings of frustration inside of you, because that's definitely not not healthy or productive either. There’s times we just need to let our feelings out, and that’s okay! We’re allowed to have feelings. It definitely gets the point across to the hubby quicker. But if possible, keep in mind what you say while expressing all that emotion. Words are hard to put back into our mouths once something is said. But letting out a growl or yell probably won’t hurt anyone. Get those feelings out, then talk over what’s bugging ya.
Other Factors + Opinions
- What if it is a bigger issue than just trivial things?
Good question. But who says you can't apply the same principles to any discussion. The moral of this story is to show that over-reacting and speaking in a negative and attacking way helps no one and is destructive to relationships. It turns any conversation or discussion into an argument. You have to be honest with yourself and think, " Is the way I'm handling this really going to solve the problem at hand, and if not, how can I do better?"
- What if my husband is the one that is quick to get worked up?
If that's the case, take a break. If neither one of you can remain calm during the discussion, then just stop there, take some time to think about the issue independently, and then come back together when you both are composed and able to speak rather than shout.
- What if we can't come to an agreement?
If you can't seem to come to an agreement or compromise, seek outside advise. That doesn't mean go complain to your mom about him or have your friends choose sides. But whether separately or together, speak to some who can be a trustworthy third party advocate for your relationship and help you work through the issue. Find a couple who's marriage you view as strong and inspiring to help support you.
No marriage is perfect, mine included, but they are well worth the work and effort you put into them. I love the time I spend with my husband, and I especially love that we do not spend a lot of time arguing or being mad at one another. Life is too short to take for granted the good times you have with your spouse, so don't spend it yelling at each other.
And be nice to Nancy too.
Tell me your strategies for arguing with your husband! Leave a comment below!
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