Tools for Handling Disagreements

Couple Arguing

 Disagreements are a normal part of marriage.  Many couples struggle with disagreements within their marriage.  Conflicts can turn into major struggles very quickly.

The first step in handling disagreements is to truly listen and seek to understand what your partner is concerned about.  A slogan to help you remember this step is to Listen More, Talk Less. The following steps will help you to achieve this step.

  1. When your partner expresses a concern, listen and be able to recap what you heard your partner saying.  If you didn’t get it, your partner gets to say it again. Keep repeating this process until your partner tells you that your recap is correct.  Caution: We have a tendency to start thinking about what we are going to say rather than listening for understanding. Remember you are listening so that your partner feels understood and that you understand what the issue is.  Only then can you address the concern.
  2. Use I statements rather than You statements.  You statements tend to sound blaming.  This will shut down communication and lead to an increase in the intensity of a disagreement.
  3.  Sometimes dealing with Disagreements or Conflicts is a major problem because we tend to use language that leads to defensiveness rather than solving the problem.
  4.  Avoid using phrases that use the words always and never.  The use of these words immediately escalates a disagreement because more than likely those statements are not true.  For example, if you say you never take out the trash, your partner immediately responds yes I do.  A better way to express this is to say, I would like for you to empty the trash each evening.  This allows for an open discussion regarding the best way to get the job done.
  5.  Another way that conflicts can become major problems is by bottling up feelings or ignoring issues.  Sometimes one of the partners is uncomfortable dealing with conflict.  Then eventually this partner may explode with far more anger than the current problem warrants.
  6.  Each partner needs to be aware when anger starts to escalate, and request a time out with an agreement to talk about the issue after each have calmed down.
  7.  Sometimes couples may need additional help to resolve conflicts.  If this is  you, be sure to seek help from a professional.


Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

Top Ten Ways to Help Your Marriage

  1. Listen to your partner with the intent to understand what your spouse is saying.  One way to be sure you understand is to repeat back what you heard.
  2. Look for ways to tell your spouse how much you appreciate them and give examples at least once a day.
  3. Be generous with hugs and/or a kiss.  A good time to do this when you are leaving for work and when arriving home.
  4. Recognize that disagreements or conflicts are a normal part of relationships.  If the argument is excalating, be sure to take a time out with an agreement to talk after you each have calmed down.
  5. Look for ways to share hopes and dreams with each other.
  6. Be willing to listen to a recap of the work day or a day at home.  This allows your spouse to let go of tension.
  7. Treat each other with respect.  Let your spouse know when you are going to be late or the unexpected happens.
  8. Establish rules for parenting your children.  Support each other in the process.   If a difficult issue occurs, discuss how to handle it if possible.  If one parent has to make an on the spot decision, support and don’t undermine that decision.
  9. Use those three most important words “I love you” frequently.  Let your spouse know how much you care.
  10. Plan one activity that you can do together away from family at least once per week.  This doesn’t need to be expensive.  If you have children, this will need to be planned in advance.  It helps to plan for the same day or evening each week when possible.

Let me know what your views are of these top ten.  Are there others suggestions that you would include?


Photo Credit: Gareth Williams