Conflict is a normal part of marriage. No matter how much you and your spouse love each other, you won’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Having the occasional argument doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong with your marriage, but the way you and your spouse handle your disagreements plays a big role in whether you’ll stay together for the long haul. Luckily, healthy conflict resolution is a skill that anyone can learn. You can solve problems with your spouse by talking with each other honestly, fighting fair, and finding ways to avoid unnecessary conflicts in the future.
Find a good time to talk.
Talk with your spouse when both of you are well-rested and able to focus. Don’t try to solve problems when one or both of you are distracted, tired, or hungry.
For instance, if your spouse has just come home from work, give them some time to unwind before you bring up something that’s bothering you.
Sit down and face each other.
Stay calm by sitting down to talk, instead of pacing around the room. Make eye contact with your spouse.
Making eye contact shows your spouse that you’re listening to them and care what they have to say. It also helps you feel more connected to each other.
Discuss the conflict.
Tell your spouse what’s bothering you. Speak calmly and avoid rambling. If you’re arguing about an issue that seems minor on the surface, try to figure out what the underlying problem is.
For instance, you could say, “I wish you would clean up the kitchen after you’re finished cooking. When you leave it messy, I feel like you don’t appreciate how hard I work to keep the place clean.”
Avoid pointing fingers.
Don’t throw accusations at your spouse. This will make them feel defensive, and your argument could turn into a full-blown fight. Instead, tell them how you feel and what you think.
It’s also a good idea to steer clear of the words “always” and “never.”
For example, instead of saying, “You never tell me when you’re going to be working late,” say, “I feel unimportant to you when you work overtime and don’t text me.”
Keep an open mind as you listen to your spouse. Pay attention to their body language as well as their words. Make sure you understand what they’re saying by mirroring their statements.
For example, if your spouse says, “I just need time alone sometimes,” you could mirror that statement by saying, “So you feel like you can unwind and relax best by yourself, is that right?”
Work with your spouse to find a solution you’re both happy with. If you can’t find a compromise that works for both of you, try taking turns with your preferred solutions.
For instance, if your spouse prefers to use the dishwasher and you would rather wash dishes by hand, try using each method on alternate weeks.
Compromise means that sometimes you will get your way, while other times your spouse will get their way.
Keep your cool.
Don’t raise your voice, call your spouse names, or get sarcastic. Acting nasty will put a stop to any productive discussion you might have had. If you feel your temper rising, call a time-out and regain your composure before continuing the conversation.
If you’re getting too angry to talk rationally, go somewhere by yourself and take a few deep breaths, or blow off steam by taking a walk around the block.
Focus on the issue at hand.
Argue about one thing at a time. Don’t drag unrelated issues or old grudges into the conversation. Leave the past where it belongs – behind you. If you’ve already forgiven your spouse for something, don’t dredge it up again as ammunition for your current argument.
For instance, if you’re arguing about how often to mow the lawn, don’t bring up an old disagreement about where your kids should go to school.
Avoid hitting below the belt.
Stay civil and polite. Some things, like name-calling or picking at your spouse’s insecurities, should remain off-limits during an argument. If you’re angry enough that you want, to say something to hurt your spouse, step away and cool down by yourself.
For example, if your husband makes a rash decision, resist the urge to call him stupid or an idiot. Even if you feel it’s true in the moment, it will only make communication and conflict resolution even harder.
Ask your spouse to explain their perspective so that you can understand why they made the decision. Then you can calmly discuss the issue including input from both of you.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Don’t put words in their mouth or look for reasons to assume the worst. Make sure you understand what they’re saying before you answer them.
For example, your spouse tells you they need some space and you assume they are trying to leave the marriage. Ask for clarification. Space could simple mean more time and room to think things over.
If something is bothering you, address it. Don’t spend time by yourself stewing over what may have been an innocent action or remark.
Avoid picking at your spouse for little things.
Learn to distinguish between real problems and minor issues you can ignore. If your spouse has a few habits that are annoying but harmless, reconsider whether you really need to argue about them.
For example, if your husband likes to move some pillows to a different chair when he comes home from work, don’t nag him over it. Putting the pillows back is easier than fighting.
Appreciate your spouse.
Focus on your spouse’s good traits, both big and small, and don’t be shy about giving them a sincere compliment every now and then. When your spouse does something thoughtful for you, thank them.
For example, you could say something like, “Thanks so much for making dinner when I get home late. That makes my evenings a lot more relaxing.”
Let your spouse make mistakes. No one is perfect, and your spouse will make mistakes just like anyone else. You wouldn’t like it if someone held your past mistakes against you, so don’t hold your spouse’s slip-ups against them, either.
Spend quality time together.
Don’t let months or years of marriage make you lose sight of the reasons you married your spouse. Make a habit of going on dates, trying new things, and having fun together. Choose activities you both like, such as taking a stroll to enjoy the weather or working on a hobby you share.
Stay away from people who try to control your marriage. Don’t listen to friends or family members who offer you bad advice or try to influence you for the worse. If someone tries to meddle in your marriage, tell them politely but firmly that your relationships are your own business.
Avoid trying to win every argument.
Choose happiness over being right. We all want to win arguments, but needing to defeat the other person all the time will destroy your relationship. If you’re arguing about something trivial, or if you think you really might be wrong, let your spouse win the, argument.