Friday, December 16, 2011

Argue Only By Appointment

All couples see things differently at times. You're each unique individuals, and you probably grew up in families with their own ways of doing things and ideas about what is "right." Happily committed couples learn there is often MORE than one right way to do most things. Emotionally mature people respect their differences, learn to fight fairly and understand that all relationships have some recurring perpetual issues.

Every couple has 4 or 5 perpetual issues that are unsolvable, according to psychologist and marital researcher John Gottman. If you trade in your current relationship, guess what happens? You just get 4 or 5 different perpetual, unsolvable issues! So all couples will disagree. Don't be shocked. What counts is working out respectful, fair ways to discuss these issues when they come up.

How do you fight fair with your partner?

First, I encourage couples to argue only by appointment with each other. Don't launch a grenade as your partner is just leaving for work. No surprise attacks! It's better to let your partner know you want to set up a time to talk with them about something important to you. Ask if now is a good time, or if not, if you can set up a time later that same day or evening. (Your partner is not allowed to just say no.) You need to speak privately, without an audience. I also ask couples to have these discussions NOT in your bedroom, as that needs to be sacred space for you as a couple, not associated with tough conversations.

Next, don't hit below the belt. This means, don't call your partner names, yell, swear, or blame. Make "I" statements, so that you say what you want, need, and feel, rather than blame them.

Stay on one topic. Don't wander from one concern to another. It gets overwhelming for your partner and is not as productive.

Try not to bring up a long list of examples from past years,or since the two of you met. This long train of examples can make your partner feel hopeless about ever being able to make you happy.

Stay solution-focused. Give specifics. Ask for what you want. Allow for hope and the possibility that your partner might want to better meet your needs.

Remember, the intent is to help your partner better understand you and how their behavior affects you.

Having grown-up expectations for your relationship is important. Everything won't go smoothly all the time. You will see things differently. If you work it right, you can grow and become a better person through learning to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts. Perhaps this is a part of the plan, that through being in a close committed relationship, we develop fully into the person we were always meant to become: more open, respectful of differences, aware of your impact on your partner, and an active participant in keeping your relationship alive and grudge-free.

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