Best Argument

Some of the least helpful, most misguided advice newly married couples receive is, "Don't go to bed angry." There may be good reason why this old sawhorse is pulled out again and again. It aligns with the magical thinking that many couples-to-be experience as they plan their wedding: if you do everything perfectly, everything will be perfect. Experience, however, is a great teacher (another sawhorse, but far more stable). The meaningful lessons come more from trials and failures than from perfection. Newly wedded couples may not yet understand that they do not need to clean the slate every day to wake up to a good marriage tomorrow. Better advice might be, "Practice the art of the healthy argument." Good Clean Marital Fighting 101:

Say "I," Not "You."

Right off the bat, this sounds totally counterintuitive. Aren't people supposed to check their egos at the door in an argument? In this case, the use of the first person pronoun does just that. Use of the word "you" in a tense moment comes off as a personal attack, as in, "You never listen!" Instead, keep the conversation in play with something like, "I want to be heard." Then you can continue to talk about how a situation can be improved, hopefully without alienating or shutting down your partner.

Apologize Well

This is another place where the focus is on the "I." Apologies are difficult. Often the impulse in an argument is to be right. It takes time to figure out that the real way to win is to accept responsibility, bow your head and expose your naked nape in supplication. Commit to "I'm sorry," with absolutely no buts. Nothing reverses the potentially healing effects of an apology faster than, "I'm sorry, but " Even in the likely event that the other party shares responsibility, it is essential to a quality, relationship-building apology that you concentrate on your own piece of it.

Timing Really Is Everything

As much as you may be tempted to just put it all out there right now, try to resist. Whenever possible, wait until there is enough time and space to dedicate to an issue before diving in. If you want to have a productive argument, try not to start a discussion:

  • While headed out the door to your in-laws' holiday party
  • On an empty stomach
  • Drunk
  • Exhausted
  • Already foaming with anger

Go Ahead and Go to Bed Angry

Please refer to the fourth point stated in the above section. Exhaustion can only exacerbate a tense situation. The further the clock ticks past bedtime in an argument, the less rational and compassionate you both are likely to be. Press "pause," agree to revisit the discussion tomorrow and get some rest.

Use Humor Wisely

Laughing together can be a great way to reset a discussion and move on. A shared moment of mirth can serve to remind one another what you like about each other. Humor can help you remember you are more than your anger, unless the joke is at the expense of the other or preys upon a known sensitivity. Humor can be gratuitous and unwelcome if someone uses it to avoid participating in an argument. Remember, comedy is a powerful tool, to be used for good and not evil.

Fight the Good Fight

Like humor, fighting can unite as well as divide. A fight is a form of intimacy. Granted, it is not as much fun as other forms of intimacy that might come to mind. Arguing, however, exposes your vulnerabilities and can open a path for compassionate behavior and improved communication. Another benefit of a good argument is the knowledge that anger toward one another need not threaten your world. Do not forget how much fun it can be to make up, too.

Category: Marriage

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