“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.
1. 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.
4. 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.
Kiss and Make Up:
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.