“If you can’t say
anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” my mother used to admonish me. This
is true in almost every other situation, but marriage. Sometimes, you have to
“put it all out there” and say what’s on your mind. “Don’t go to bed angry,” I was
advised at my bridal shower, but for years, I was master of the silent
treatment. If my husband said or did
something that I didn’t agree with, I would go days without speaking or say the
bare minimum, hoping that I could hold off long enough that he would beg me for
forgiveness. In doing so, I often became blind to many of my own faults, in my
quest to get him to admit his. In my stubbornness, I would often forget about
why I was mad in the first place, or I would realize that the matter was not as
big as I had made it out to be. Seven years later, I am revealing five things
that Mike and I have put into place to ensure that the channels of
communication remain open during a disagreement.
Listen:This is often the last thing
that I want to do, especially if I think that I’m right. But I have found,
however, that if I listen (I mean really listen) to what my husband is saying,
then I can see where he is coming from. In our case, we “give each other the
floor” each person gets a chance to give the details from his or her perspective
completely uninterrupted. This brings me
to my next point......................................
2. No Dramatics: This is important to me, because I tend to clam up and
become defensive when someone is shouting or has raised their voice at me. On the flip side, my husband has expressed
his annoyance, when I begin to cry because from his perspective, the last thing
he wants to do is to make me cry. So we have agreed to keep our emotions in
check when telling our side of the story. This is not the time to blame the
other party or point fingers, but to simply state the facts from your point of view.
3. Three’s a Crowd: One of the worst things to experience is to discover that your
“business” is “out there". I have found that Mike and I can handle
anything together as a team, but when outside forces weigh in and give
opinions, a situation can go from bad to worse in ten seconds flat! As a
precautionary measure, we try to avoid arguing in public or within earshot of
others. We also do not tell our individual friends or family about any
disagreement that is ongoing. If counseling is needed, there should be an
appropriate and qualified person to help mediate disputes.
Transparency: “Honesty is the best policy” and in no case is it more
appropriate than in marriage. No matter how ugly the truth is, it is always
best to go ahead and reveal it to your spouse than try to cover it up or to offer
up excuses as to why you behaved a certain way. Not only does dishonesty belittle
your spouse, but it also builds a level of mistrust in the marriage. When you
are both vulnerable and everything has been laid on the table, then healing can
begin and a remedy found.
5. Kiss and Make Up: Probably the most refreshing feelings, is to know that you
can begin with a clean slate with your spouse.
I cannot stress how important forgiveness and letting go is in a
marriage. In fact, there is no point in staying married, if you cannot learn to
forgive and, yes, forget! Try to keep from replaying the same hurtful episode
for your spouse to hear every time you argue. If the same offense is committed,
then that is the time to try and figure out together how to keep it from
happening again, and to put obstacles in place to avoid the same pitfalls the
Always a work in process, marriage
is by no means easy; but by committing to follow these 5 steps in handling
conflict, your marriage and home will become a place of harmony, as well as a
peaceful haven for both of you.
*Note: There is never any excuse for physical or psychological abuse, and is often necessary to remove yourself from this kind of situation, contact the appropriate authorities in these cases.