Sick of blow out fights and hurt feelings?
You need to learn how to have better arguments with your spouse
Follow these six tips and watch the resentment melt away.
As any married person will tell you, occasional arguments with your partner are inevitable. In fact, research has even shown that arguing with your spouse can be a good thing for your marriage. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s true.
The problem is, though… many couples don’t have healthy arguments.
Instead, they have arguments that lead to resentment, frustration, and overall damage to the marriage.
If your marriage is on the rocks right now, then maybe you know the kind of fights I’m talking about: the ones that you know, deep down, are slowly eroding the connection you have with your spouse.
How To Have Better Arguments With Your Spouse
If you want future disagreements with your spouse to actually be productive and healthy, rather than damaging to your marriage–keep reading.
Tip #1: Stop using exaggerated language
This is one of the most important tips I can offer to any married couple that struggles with frequent conflicts. Exaggerated language includes saying things like,
- “You’re ALWAYS late! Why can’t you just show up on time for once?”
- “Every time I walk into the kitchen there’s a pile of your dirty dishes in the sink!”
- “Why do you always say rude things around my family?!”
Do you see the problem with these statements? Simply put, they’re all false and exaggerated.
Has your spouse really NEVER shown up on time? Is it true that your spouse hasn’t ever washed dishes? Not likely.
There’s two problems with this kind of statement. To begin with, all your spouse would have to do is come up with one example of him or her cleaning up after themselves to prove you wrong.
When you exaggerate, you’ve already lost the argument.
From your spouse’s perspective, what you said is blatant hyperbole, and clearly not a true reflection of reality… and as a result, your spouse will think that you’re being untruthful and condescending.
Secondly, this kind of statement is too confrontational to have a positive impact on your spouse’s behaviour. They’re simply going to latch on to the exaggerated nature of your statement, and ignore the underlying issue that you’re trying to address.
The solution is simple: use more precise, realistic language when you’re bringing up concerns with your partner.
Instead of saying, “you’re always late!”, you could say “Can you please try to be on time when we meet with our friends? I’d appreciate it if you could make more of an effort not to be late.”
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Now, I know you might be somewhat skeptical here, and that’s fair.
By itself, this isn’t going to fix your marriage and make all your arguments productive… but you’d be very surprised at how much of a positive impact using this kind of “precise language” can make to your disagreements.
Try it and see for yourself how much more receptive your spouse will be when you frame things in a more realistic and precise way.
Tip #2: Start your arguments in the right way
This ties in to what we just talked about: it’s important to bring up contentious issues in the right way. When you have a concern that you want to voice to your spouse, make sure you start the conversation in a positive and productive way.
That means picking a time when your spouse isn’t in already in a bad mood, or when you don’t have the time or privacy to have a proper discussion about the issue.
It also means using a respectful tone, and not yelling at your spouse or berating them.
And of course, it also means using precise language rather than exaggerations.
Starting on the right foot sets the tone for the conversation, and makes it more likely your spouse won’t immediately feel like they’re being attacked.
Tip #3: Listen empathetically
This is something that many of my marriage coaching clients have a lot of problems with.
When you’re having a disagreement with your partner, it’s crucial to actually listen to what they’re saying, try to see things from their perspective, and acknowledge their concerns.
Dr Gary Chapman, author of the famous “5 Love Languages” book, suggests saying something like: “I think I understand what you’re saying, what you’re feeling, and it makes a lot of sense.”
This is a very simple and easy way to show your spouse that you’re on their team… you’re a friend, not an enemy.
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It also shows that you’re actually listening and processing what they’re saying, rather than simply dismissing it or focusing on your own argument.
Tip #4: Be curious and ask questions
Just like tip #3, it’s also important to ask for clarification or more detail when you’re not entirely sure what your partner is saying.
This is a very, very easy way to show your spouse that you actually care about their feelings and that you’re trying to understand their side of the argument.
Say things like, “I think I understand what you mean, but can you unpack that a bit more for me?” or “OK, I think I get what you’re saying, but can you give me an example?”
Again, the goal here is to show your ex that you’re trying to see things from their perspective.
If you do this properly, your spouse will feel like you’re not working against them, but rather that you’re trying to work WITH them to resolve an underlying issue.
Tip #5: Replace the word “you” with “I”
If you’ve watched some of my past videos on this topic, you’ve probably heard this one before, but I wanted to include it again here because it’s such a powerful tip.
Basically, instead of using the word “you” when you’re bringing up a concern with your spouse, try framing the topic using the word “I”.
For example, instead of saying, “you never take out the trash!” or “why do you always leave me the job of taking out the trash?” you can say, “I’d love your help taking out the trash next week.”
It’s a stupidly simple change that doesn’t water down the issue you’re trying to address… but it can make a huge difference to how your spouse responds.
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I just got an email from a coaching client yesterday telling me how much of a difference this little tip made to her marriage… her husband suddenly started listening to her concerns, instead of immediately becoming angry and defensive.
So, next time you want to bring up a point of contention with your partner, trying using the word “I” instead of “you” and see for yourself how this tiny little change can make your arguments less argumentative and more productive.
Tip #6: Know when to shut down the conversation and take a break
Often, married couples will start discussing something in a respectful, constructive way… and then the conversation will spiral into a screaming match, with both sides mentally committed to “winning” rather then actually solving the underlying issue.
Next time you find a discussion with your spouse escalating into this kind of “battle”, where there’s a strong potential for hurt feelings and resentment, try to politely shut down the discussion and agree to pick up the conversation later when you’ve both had a chance to cool down and think things over.
Then, you can start the discussion again when you’ve both got cooler heads, and hopefully make more progress and avoid screaming at one another in an unproductive way.
Obviously you want to be careful when you do this — you don’t want your spouse to think that you’re trying to back out and ignore the issue at hand.
But if you can say something like, “look, I think this discussion is maybe getting a bit too heated… let’s agree to take a break and continue the conversation tomorrow morning when we’ve both calmed down a bit”.
And finally, folks, one bonus tip: if your marriage is on the brink of collapse, TAKE ACTION! Consider signing up for my 1-on-1 coaching program so that I can work with you on an ongoing basis. Together, we’ll dig into the underlying problems in your marriage, and come up with a plan to save it before it’s too late.