Don’t push the buttons
Using a different tone of voice or rolling your eyes are common behaviors that can push buttons, particularly in your spouse. Whether done intentionally or not, the effect remains the same, and someone is going to get annoyed. Sometimes these acts are done purposefully, but often they occur without intention. There may be words or actions you say and do that upset your partner and this is where both of you need to sit down and talk about what grinds your gears. Offer reasons as to why you get offended and be understanding and compassionate to your partner when listening to their concerns.
Watch for recurring themes of conflict
Most likely, there are certain topics that you and your spouse argue about constantly. Your arguments can take on different forms, but the topics of the heated debate remain the same. By arguing about the same thing, you can get caught in a negative cycle that usually leaves the both of you without a chance to break free. You are not putting your marriage first if you continue down this path. You are allowing it to deteriorate with an unsettled divide between the two of you. Have a dialogue about these recurring conflict themes.
Learn what makes you and your spouse understood when you have a fight
During a fight, it’s tough not to react and get angry or bitter. We find ourselves saying hostile things, being passive-aggressive, or trying to hurt the partner to protect ourselves. When disagreements occur, remember that the best thing you can do for your marriage is work together and try to rebuild your connection. This is not going to be easy, it will require self-control and a willingness for a mutual understanding. Find out what makes your partner feel truly heard and make sure your spouse feels understood and valued even when you have disagreements.
Choose a good time to resolve conflict
It’s date night and you and your spouse have had a little too much to drink. Someone says something sarcastic, a bit of banter occurs, then it goes a little too far and before you know it, you are fighting. You can see people staring at you, the tension in the room can be cut with a steak knife. This is not the ideal place or scenario to work out a problem. The same can be said when you are at home, about to go to bed, or are heading out the door to go to work. These moments are not the best to start a fight. You may not be able to predict when a conflict will happen, but you can control when it will be resolved. It is best to resolve a fight when you are both calm, free of distractions and are not under the influence of alcohol. The sooner you can take care of the problem the better, but timing is key to reaching a positive result.
When you are having a fit with your partner, it can be hard to maintain a cool head, especially if you are feeling wounded. These feelings can cloud your ability to work together to solve the problem at hand. If you allow your emotions to take control, you may end up saying or doing something that will make the situation worse. If you have a problem containing your feelings in the heat of the moment, figure out what you can do to restore emotional symmetry to a place where you can have a calm discussion.
Learn about your conflict handling styles
The way we handle conflict can be a reflection of our parents, other role models and our personalities. Our level of confidence and self-esteem is a large factor in how we approach and handle conflict. Some people go straight for defense, while others withdraw during fights. Find out what your reaction is and inform your partner about theirs. After, discuss how you both can change these unwholesome behaviors.
Work on the differences
We all handle conflicts in different ways. One of you might need to be aware of raising the voice while the other needs to not clam up. If you have differing conflict styles, you need to determine a new way to communicate, a way that works for both of you. Talk about your divergent styles with the main goal of maintaining the integrity of your marriage. How do you both modify the way you approach conflict so you can peacefully resolve it?
Don’t get stuck
There will likely be times in your marriage that a conflict cannot be fixed. Neither you or your spouse are willing to compromise or back down. Don’t allow these impasses to remain untended because if you do, your marriage will suffer from it. Decide on an alternative resolution, such as mediation, counseling or even drawing straws. Have a plan in place for when you reach this type of situation.
Watch your language
“Maybe we should just split up” or “I never really loved you in the first place,” are very hurtful words. Saying regretful things like these during a heated argument can really demean your partner, possibly leaving a harsh wound on them. Agree on what words or phrases cross the line, and promise to never use them, especially during a fight. Deliberate putting this in writing as it strengthens your personal commitment to each other.
Learn your lessons
Couples in healthy marriages understand that conflict is a learning experience. It is not a way to win or blow off steam. Sit down with your partner and discuss what things you can learn from each other when you are having a fight. See what things you can encourage each other to do and not to do. Ask yourselves how the resolution from your conflict can help you improve your marriage.