The occasional conflict is unavoidable in most long-term relationships. Conflicts with your spouse, however, do not have to end up as major fights or reasons to consider divorce. Resolving an argument in a healthy, productive way is possible with the right strategies. You and your spouse should be on the same page when it comes to resolving conflicts to avoid emotionally draining arguments.
Put Yourself in the Other’s Shoes
Empathizing with your spouse during an argument could diffuse the situation. Put yourself in his or her shoes to consider how the issue might make you feel or react in his or her place. Doing so could open your eyes to a different perspective you had not thought of before, such as how something you do might make your spouse feel. Taking a moment to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes could lead to greater understanding and compassion toward him or her, potentially preventing a larger fight. It could also help you avoid doing things that trigger your spouse’s anger in the future through a deeper understanding of why he or she feels a certain way.
Eat a Meal and Circle Back
First, ask yourself if an external factor is exacerbating your frustration, such as being hungry or tired. Studies have shown that being hungry can have powerful negative effects on mood. Hunger can increase feelings of anger, stress, unpleasantness and hatefulness. This phenomenon, often referred to as being hangry, can lead to multiple fights per year for the average couple. Hanger = danger. Hunger-induced emotional states can intensify an argument with your spouse. If you start fighting with your spouse, both of you should eat a meal and circle back to the conversation. It may surprise you to find that your anger or other negative emotions about the topic have dissipated with a full stomach.
Use “I” Phrases to Express Your Feelings
A well-known conflict resolution strategy for couples is to use “I feel” phrases rather than “You” phrases. For example, instead of saying something to your spouse along the lines of, “You always leave your socks on the floor,” say, “I feel taken advantage of and underappreciated when you leave your socks on the floor.” This reverses the dynamic to express your feelings to your spouse in a healthy way rather than appearing as if you are blaming him or her. In turn, your spouse may be more willing to listen to the problem and come up with a solution rather than having an automatic response of anger or defensiveness.
Don’t Hold Back Your Emotions
Although it might seem like you are avoiding a larger argument by holding back saying what you really feel, research has demonstrated that failing to express one’s anger can actually make a matter worse. Being honest about how you feel is necessary to resolve a problem. Although tackling difficult topics with your spouse may seem counterproductive at the moment, it will benefit the health and stability of your relationship in the long run. Being honest and upfront about your feelings can incite deeper conversations that ultimately help your relationship.
Consider Seeking Professional Help
More and more individuals and couples are engaging in open conversations about mental health and the importance of therapy for resolving conflicts. Seeking help from a professional marriage counselor could be the answer to resolving the problem you and your spouse currently face. Marriage counseling does not mean your relationship is on the rocks or that divorce is inevitable.
In fact, it means the opposite – you and your spouse value your relationship enough to spend time and money on repairing and maintaining it. A professional can pose questions you and your spouse might not have thought of alone, as well as offer proven tactics for problem-solving. The strategies you learn in therapy could help you and your spouse resolve arguments in a healthy way for years to come.