1. HOW TO
have a conversation
about a conflict

Even happy couples
have conflicts.

Every marriage
has its
perpetual problems.

Miscommunications are bound to happen.   And, both of you are unique individuals with your own unique way of seeing the world.  You will have differences in ideas of how to deal in certain situations.  That means there will be conflicts.

Happy couples are OK with conflicts. They feel safe to share their perspectives. They discuss the issues without fighting; they don’t explode or try to exert power over the other.  They also feel secure enough to take influence from the other’s perspective—sometimes.

Actually, a lack of conflicts may mean that there is a lack of truthfulness and emotional safety. Trust is eroded and resentment builds.  And the relationship feels strained and unstable.

It’s inevitable. There will be some areas where the two of you will never agree. These are likely based on either fundamental differences in your personalities, or fundamental differences in your life style needs. It’s how you see the world.

These are problems that you will return to again and again.  They will never be solved. All couples have perpetual problems. All. Couples. Do.

The key is to manage these problems, not try to solve them. Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on marriage and relationships, states, "Relationships will work to the extent that you have wound up with a set of perpetual problems you can learn to live with." Boiled down to its essence, they can't be fixed; they must be accepted and managed with a set of reasonable expectations from the other in the relationship.

Those problems will never be solved. Accept that. Your marriage is worth it.

“The key to fixing a big problem is to select
the right tools.” 

― Mark Goulston, 
Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life 

The goal of
an argument
is to understand.

Take responsibility.

Frustrating and escalating fights happen when couples approach their argument with a goal of winning. Naturally, there can only be one winner, and since both want to win and both feel they are correct, it usually does not end well.

Instead the goal of the argument should be to understand the other person’s position as fully as possible, and then to make yourself understood.  It must be in that order: to understand and then be understood.  Ask questions to that end.

Understanding another person does not mean agreeing or endorsing that opinion, it just means being able to put yourself in that person’s heart and mind, so you can see how and why that person holds a particular belief or position.

Why this works: When you show you care about the other’s point of view and respect it, even if you do not agree, it decreases their anxiety – by several notches. And since their point of view was treated with respect, giving in will feel much less threatening to their identity.

Think about how you might have contributed to the problem.  Think about how any of your shortcomings (we all have something) has made this more difficult for your spouse.  Think about what you might have said or done (or not done or said) that has contributed to the problem. 

Express it out loud. “I can see how my tendency to rush things has made it difficult for you.” While apologizing for your behavior isn’t necessary, it will increase the impact of what you say.

Why this works:  When you take responsibility for how your behavior is contributing to the problem, you are indirectly showing that you do understand their point of view. And once they feel understood they can let go of blame – since they no longer have to convince you to see their point.

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