communication in marriage – arguments
Despite the best intentions and honed inter-personal skills, you will argue. This is normal. The classic stages of group dynamics hold in marriage too. Forming, storming, norming and performing except in a marriage the cycle never ends, storming, norming and performing, storming, norming and performing, storming, norming and performing, storming, norming and performing. When a married couple tell me that they have been married for 40 years and have never had an argument I am immediately sceptical. In my opinion they are either being dishonest (to create a good image) or they have a VERY hierarchical marriage and one of them is totally dominant and the other totally subservient.
My advice here is two-fold.
- Don’t bottle things up. I often ask to Jax after a heated discussion why she allowed her feelings to get to explosion stage instead of sharing earlier. Express your feelings (ideally in Adult -> Adult mode).
- Warning. This is incredibly difficult for both of you. It takes a lot of self-control.
- Make two appointments with your spouse 24 hours apart. For example, at 8pm on Wednesday night and 8pm on Thursday the next night.
- Tell your partner that you have something you want to share that is bothering you.
- On the first appointment you tell them what is bothering you. THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO RESPOND. Just listen.
- On the second appointment, they report back with their thoughts and feelings relating to the issue. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO RESPOND. Just listen.
I love this because it forces good communication. What we as humans do when someone gives us feedback is we instinctively react with our point of view. We want to defend ourselves. We react so quickly that we do not honour our partners sharing, opinion and feelings. This leaves them feeling un-heard and frustrated.
When you are not able to manage the discussion in ADULT mode and you find yourself in a big fight, have your argument, say what you need to but try your best not to get nasty. Then make up as quickly as you can. Apologise if you need to and get on with life.
Sometimes when Jax is angry with me after an argument I will ask her if she can imagine a time in the future when she will be friends with me again. The second she says, “Yes” I suggest with my naughty grin that she starts immediately and not waste the time in between J!
This is an excerpt from the book, “So you’re married, now what?
Written by the marriage expert, Stephen van Basten