How would your relationship change if every disagreement ended with a win?
How about if the win was for the both of you?
Why We Fight
For as long as I can recall, psychologists, polls, and various experts quickly name money, sex, raising the kids, in-laws, or house-work as the top reasons for our disagreements and disconnections. I disagree. These are not the reasons for the arguments. These topics contribute content. I am going to suggest something different.
The core of the disagreement or disconnection has little to do with any of these topics.
Each of these topics – money, sex, raising the kids, in-laws, house/work responsibilities – are quite simple to figure out and discuss. Think about this: Can you sit with girlfriends or with other couples over dinner and discuss these topics without a heated argument? Were you able to discuss these topics without disagreement prior to marriage with your spouse?
Yes, of course. So, what has changed?
The Problem after Marriage
The little quirks and slight differences in perspective or approach were not a big deal prior to marriage. However, those little things suddenly become massive things. Why? We tend to deviate from facts and believe our feelings. We must start by dismantling the emotional chaos – the feelings over facts – to create the space for a much more productive and loving conversation.
Marriage is hard and each one of us brings a truckload of old baggage and unrealistic expectations with us. Then, suddenly, after the official ‘I do’ is sweetly whispered on the best day of our lives, our junk begins to creep in and sabotage our marriage. We approach our disagreements as ‘fights’ and not ‘conversations’. We have an agenda and a point to make. We demand to be heard, our feelings validated, and the other person to completely surrender to our position. The entire disagreement becomes a WIN-LOSE scenario.
So, how we approach the inevitable disagreement will be the difference maker in creating a loving, long-lasting relationship. How do we fight and create the WIN-WIN?
The Fair Fight
First, rules are necessary! In any situation in which two people are opposing one another, such as in a game, rules are necessary guides towards a winning objective. Rules provide the boundaries protecting one another and maintaining the deep respect and love. Having “Rules of Engagement” for disagreements with your spouse is a mature way of approaching these disagreements.
Here are a few practical rules for handling disagreements with your spouse:
- Remind one another that your love is greater than the disagreement. Recommit to speaking life into one another and looking out for what’s best for one another and your marriage.
- Disagreements are very emotional. Determine the facts first. Write the facts of the situation down that need to be discussed. Include why that fact needs to be discussed. This simple activity will create an agenda and keep the conversation going in a logical order.
- Create space. When either you or your spouse begin to feel your “blood boil”, anxiety heighten, or voices being raised, call a 10-minute time out. No devices or electronics. Go for a quick jog around the block, sweep a floor, stretch out or try deep breathing. Refocus on who and what is truly important.
- Avoid using the word “Divorce” at all costs! Once that word is uttered, trust in the relationship begins to erode. If the “D” word slips, an immediate apology MUST follow. The disagreement comes to a stop, and this break in trust must be reconciled at once.
- Commit to a safe zone. All ideas, thoughts, and feelings regarding a disagreement are not appropriate. Be wise. As mature adults, we are constantly using discernment in our conversations. Listen first – with your ears, with your heart, and with a massive dose of grace – then speak from a state of wisdom and love.
After the Fight
What do you do if an agreement cannot be made?
This happens. We simply cannot agree on everything. But we can agree to disagree in love! Sometimes, the wisest decision involves choosing the relationship and lovingly agree to disagree. Celebrate with a fun date to a coffee shop, ice cream parlor, snuggle up while watching your favorite movie, and some time under the covers!
If your relationship involves squabbles in public, you can always throw out this fun & enticing bet, “Hey Sweetie, I’ll bet you great sex on that.” Try it! You’ll lighten the mood and be the envy of the table.
Sexual intimacy resolves all disagreements. Being physically close is the ultimate ‘reset’ button. Whether the disagreement happens behind closed doors or in public, the lighthearted, loving reminder of being intimately connected creates the ultimate WIN-WIN scenario. Marriage is a high stakes game, and it’s a game that both players win!
Every couple faces disagreement – just make sure make-up sex always lasts longer than the fights. The WIN is in your connection to one another, and that is the ultimate objective in the game of creating a loving, life-long marriage.