If you love your spouse but are disheartened because you seem to fight all the time, it's probably time to assess why conflict is such a battle for you both -- literally. While every marriage is different, there are certain styles to conflict resolution that are effective, and there are many other approaches that simply aren't. Bad feelings occur when conflict cannot be resolved in a healthy way. If you are struggling with constant arguments in your marriage, here are a few tips that will help you to prevent fights from becoming another drop in the bucket of divorce.
Take Out Personal Attacks
A sure-fire way to get your disagreement onto the path to combustion is to resort to personal attacks during the argument. For example, calling your spouse names or making generalizations about their character will escalate an argument instead of allowing it to stay in the safe zone of respect. Examples of personal attacks include, "Why are you always so lazy?" or "Don't be stupid." These distract from the issue at hand, and make an argument much more personal and therefore much more hurtful. Anger often follows personal attacks, and when people get mad, arguments can really start to disintegrate a marriage.
Instead, it is better to stick closely to the initial problem. For example, if you feel like your spouse doesn't share enough of the housework, it's better to say, "I am feeling overwhelmed with how many chores are left undone at the end of the day. I wish you could help me out more." Accusations of laziness will not be well received, but statements that get to the heart of the problem without enmity will be more effective.
Resist The Defensive Urge
If your partner brings up a problem, whether it is a legitimate problem or not, one of the worst things you can do is to get defensive about it. it is better to simply acknowledge how they feel and then try to explore the issue in greater depth by asking sincere questions and pointing out some things you legitimately feel. Defensive statements tend to escalate an argument because the person being defensive refuses to accept that there might be a problem, or refuses to take part in becoming the solution. For example, if one partner says, "I wish you would help me out more around the house," a defensive response would be, "Well, I'm just too busy to help you out," or "If you wouldn't spend so much time reading, maybe it wouldn't be so messy."
Providing excuses or placing blame does not help resolve the conflict. More effective replies might be, "I didn't know you were feeling overwhelmed. I know I have been busy at work, so we might have to think of a different solution to accommodate my schedule" or, "What specific chores are you concerned about? I know I haven't been doing the dishes as often lately." Both of these statements show the spouse receiving the criticism respects the viewpoint, but more importantly it shows that the spouse is also willing to find a solution.
When you do have an issue to bring to your partner, stay away from absolutes. For example, it won't e very effective to say something like, "You never take me out on the weekends!" These don't really communicate the real problem. It would be more effective to get specific and say something like, "We haven't gone out together in a really long time. I feel like you don't want to spend as much time with me as you used to." Specific communications help to prevent misunderstandings. Misunderstandings are often why fights get out of control.
Conflict resolution takes practice, and sometimes you won't be able to do it on your own. Talk with a counselor in your area, like one at a place like Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc, if you need more specific ideas about how you and your spouse can use disagreements as tools instead of weapons.