How do you handle arguments that lead to heated exchanges with your spouse? Do you value being right over preserving the quality of your relationship? And how long do you stay angry after you've had a fight?
How you answer these questions offers a clue into how secure your marriage is. Unfortunately, too many married couples let unbridled confrontations tear the fabric of their relationship.
Every couple has misunderstandings, miscommunication, and disagreements. It's human nature to see things from your own viewpoint. And it's easy to forget that your spouse's viewpoint is just as valid as yours.
Here are some tips when preparing for talks about emotional issues with your partner:
1. Take time to center yourself emotionally by sitting quietly for a few minutes. You might take deep belly breaths and count your out-breaths to keep yourself focused in the present moment, or you might meditate or pray during this time.
2. Notice any negative "chatter" in your mind and replace it with a positive statement, such as "Each time I really focus on listening intently to my spouse instead of jumping in to criticize, I'm improving our working relationship." Or "I know that we can resolve this problem about how to handle our difficulties."
3. Expect to be able to get along, talk respectfully and courteously to each other, and find creative solutions to problems. You influence what happens in interactions with others by your expectations about what you think will happen. In other words, you often get what you expect.
4. Suspend judgment and criticism so that you're prepared to really hear your spouse. Resolve to listen deeply so that you can understand the fears and concerns that are layered beneath her (or his) surface words. When you can identify and understand her deeper concerns, you're more likely to find an acceptable solution.
5. Make sure that you speak to your spouse with words that are respectful. Avoid profanity and refrain from personal attacks on your spouse. It's quite different to say "I really don't understand what you're saying. Can you please explain?" instead of "This sounds like another one of your idiotic ideas."
6. Be willing to look at your own position and admit it whenever you are wrong. This takes humility and critical self evaluation. But it will buy goodwill with your spouse. And it could set an example that he (or she) may decide to emulate.
7. Don't carry around resentment after an argument. Try to respectfully express your feelings and then let them go. Then try to reestablish closeness as soon as possible. Make an effort to make up by focusing on what you do agree on, and on what you like about your spouse.
Lee Hefner is the co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This e-book is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com. You can also sign up for the free Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get weekly ideas and support to help you save your marriage.