Even the most loving couples have disagreements. And they can have issues that take a long time to resolve.
You probably already know the usual tips about dealing with arguments. But before I give you some other tested tips, here is a quick list of the most common tips to refresh your memory.
The Most Common Tips to Avoid in Disagreements
- Don’t use sarcasm. It is a major love-destroyer.
- Don’t compare your partner to his her family members as in: “You are just like your Mother/Father/Sister/Brother.” These are fightin’ words that only add emotional pain to your partner—and that invite dirty fighting back.
- Don’t swear, yell, hit or throw things. Well, I hope the damage from this tip is obvious.
- Don’t walk away or storm out. When you shut down the discussion, it only fans the flames of hurt and resentment. In the discussion below are smarter ways to cool down.
So, what can you do? In my work with thousands of couples, I’ve learned from them someeffective ways of dealing with differences. Here are the best ones…
Effective Ways for Handling Disagreements
1. Pick a Calm Time to Talk
Get the kids to bed and make the phone calls that you have to make. Record that television show. However, if you have to make a decision pronto, then use the next tip.
2. Rate Your Upset and Urgency
Arrange and explain this technique ahead of time with your partner when you are both in a good mood. Agree that you will give your partner a number from one to ten, with ten the highest, to indicate the importance or urgency of discussing something. This method cues your partner to listen up.
3. Sit With Your Partner and Maintain as Much as Possible Physical Contact
Touching reduces stress and anger. Or:
4. Establish Anger Containment
If your partner tends to fly off the handle, consider choosing a public place such as a restaurant to talk. Or, choose a calm setting such as walking on the beach or going to a spot with a beautiful view.
5. Reduce Defensiveness
Tell your partner that you want to work as a team to solve the problem and that you are not blaming him or her.
6. Don’t See Disagreements as Signs of Trouble
Disagreements are almost inevitable. Your different viewpoints and styles of decision-making are, in part, what brought you together. Research shows that mutually happy couples value their complementary approaches.
7. Don’t Expect All Issues to Be Settled Immediately
Often, the timing of making a decision about a problem may not be the best. And even long-term, happy couples report that sometimes the only decision they can make for an issue is not to take action.
8. If Your Discussion Veers Into Anger, Resentment or Regretted Words, Use the Magic Time Wand
Give you and your partner permission to use a do-over. Admit that you misspoke or got hot-headed. Take a break, apologize, nd then decide whether you want to start over now—or later.
9. Use Hand Signals to Indicate That Things Are Being Misheard
Agree ahead of time with your partner that you will signal each other that the discussion is going in the wrong direction. It is very important to do this ahead of time so you can avoid making your partner feel “shushed.”
10. Take Good Care of Your and Your Partner’s “Hot buttons”
Be empathic to your partner’s issues and your own! Common ones are:
- Being wrong
- Being blamed
- Not feeling heard or valued
- Not feeling approval
- Feeling left out.
Explain why this issue is particularly important to you—and show your partner that you understand his or her hot topics by saying something like: “I know your parents always said you were the dumb one, and I don’t see you that way at all. But I really need to talk about this because it’s pushing my buttons about feeling left out.”
11. Use the “I Am You” Technique
If you still can’t resolve the issue, use this approach which requires you to “get into the head, heart and soul” of your partner and speak as him or her. For example, let’s say that the issue is where to go on a vacation. You want to go away, but your partner wants to take a stay-cation. Instead of discussing your feelings, speak in the first person as though you are your partner. The purpose and goals of this exercise is to build empathy, to calm the situation and to move naturally to a solution.
Here’s how this exercise might look with you speaking as your partner. You say: “My family always had money problems. I still get afraid of big decisions that cost lots of money. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I get anxious and sad.”
Now ask your partner to speak as you. If you really let yourself go and get into this process,you will come up with a decision that perhaps you never considered.
12. Seek Trusted Help if You Still Cannot Resolve the Issue
Don’t let the problem fester. Talk it out together with someone you respect. That person might be a friend, family member, religious leader or a therapist.
I hope these tips helped.