Things you need to avoid when arguing in order to protect your marriage.
Do not start an argument harshly by being negative and critical. Complaining is one thing, but criticism attacks the character and personality of your spouse. Criticism becomes more pervasive it leads to contempt.
Contempt is not only toxic to the relationship, but also to each of the partner’s health. As arguments and, disagreements go unresolved, contempt is fueled by constant negative thoughts about your partner. This mindset makes you more susceptible of taking any comment made by your spouse as challenging or provocative which can then lead to becoming provocative yourself.
When neither of you is willing to apologize, so you go become defensive as you both perceive the other as attacking you. You are now caught in a vicious cycle that is so painful that often results in at least one, if not both, tuning each other out or completely ignoring each other. One of you becomes less responsive to your partner as they try to engage you in a harsh argument.
If you are caught up in this negative spiral it helps to learn how to:
- Let go of the desire to be right
- Accept that you might be, and you probably are, contributing to the problem
- Recognize your part in the conflict
- Listen to the other person with a genuine desire to understand her/him.
- Learn not to take things personally and not to focus on defending yourself.
- Verify any assumption, you are making that might be increasing misunderstandings
- Choose to value the relationship, the person over your strong desire to be right.
Couples therapy or marriage counseling can be an effective strategy to help you heal the wounds, understand each other, tune into one another’s heart, learn to be more effective in your communication and to resolve conflicts fairly.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT