A common dilemma facing every couple is how should they tell their spouse: "We have a problem." One of the reasons that spouses postpone their complaints is that the way they complain often starts a fight. And after the verbal combat is over, the problem usually remains unresolved. We all need to air our grievances once in a while. The only problem is that some of our arguments end up in name-calling and dredging up the past, or worse still - in a bout of sulking and holding a grudge. Of course, every relationship has its ups and downs and one tends to argue to solve differences with each other. It s very easy to fight, but arguing correctly requires patience and understanding between you and your spouse. In fact, arguments are a necessary evil in any relationship. Just make sure that your arguments don t get the better of your relationship.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM
More often than not, couples fight late in the evening when theyīre tired and donīt have the mental and emotional capacity to deal with the problem. Find a time when you re alert and you won t be disturbed by friends, children or the telephone. Let it be a time that is good for both of you.
DEFINE THE ISSUE
It may be a simple difference of opinion but itīs so easy to let go and let the gap between two people widen. A few missed calls, words left unsaid a few too many times and before you know it, your relationship has yawning chasms it never did. Keep those channels of communication open. And when something is troubling you, define the issue. State your complaint as clearly as possible, but be amicable as you discuss the problem and try to make it brief. Very often people sidetrack important issues and argue just to vent off steam. As a result, the issue which was the base of the argument - remains unresolved. It s important to let the other person know what is upsetting you and how you feel about it, without employing an accusatory tone. It s very easy to say, "It s your fault. It s because of you that things are so bad between us. You re the reason I feel so miserable." The problem with blaming is that it never solves anything and it nearly always triggers a negative reaction. When each of us blames, we deny our spouse the opportunity to think seriously about our words and to respond in a thoughtful manner.
Take the case of Jay and Sushmita. Instead of accusing Jay for neglecting his son with "You re the reason Raja is running around with a bad crowd. It s because you never spend anytime with him&" she chose to say, "I m worried that Raja s running around with a bad crowd. I d like to talk about what we can do about it." When approached respectfully, Jay realized that he needed to spend more time with his son and is working on it.
LEAVE ROOM FOR DISCUSSION
It s not easy to discuss something when tempers are flaring on both sides. However, if you really want to make some headway in the relationship, you will have to air your grievances and discuss the problem. In such cases, it s important that both people are given time and space to speak their mind. Most of us are tempted to push our own point forward when an argument does take place. Unfortunately this leads to a lot of verbal combat and needless bad blood. Brainstorm possible solutions to the problem, looking for a plan that would solve your problem, and at the same time take your spouseīs feelings into account.
My close friend Mita s husband was a workaholic something that she didn t like as he rarely had any time for her or the children. And this used to lead to her exploding in an angry burst occasionally. But she also recognized that his work habits was their only major difference, and he understands her frustrations and tries to make up for it with the occasional weekend getaway with the family and their annual work-free vacation. The conflict has not gone away but both have learnt to deal with it in a way that does not undercut the relationship.
AVOID AN ANGRY OUTBURST
Anger is the way we instinctively go about trying to resolve marital conflicts. But this approach to problem solving is not only ineffective, it also destroys respect. Instead, conflicts should be resolved by finding a solution that takes the interests and feelings of both spouses into account simultaneously. Once you learn to abandon anger and search for solutions that take the feelings of both of you into account, you will find conflicts much easier to resolve.
If you both are really angry or hurt with each other and the argument is taking a bad turn, try and take a breather from each other for a while. This will help you and the other person return to some degree of emotional equilibrium so that you can go back to the issue in a cooler frame of mind. Assume for a moment that you and your partner are in the middle of a heated fight. Your attempt to resolve the issue backfired and your line of reasoning instead ignited the flames. In such a situation, caution must be used. Many people donīt know when to leave the situation alone. This is especially important if you or your spouse becomes enraged. Raised voices immediately excite a number of emotional and physical defenses that are a complete barrier to communication. Express that you think it would be a good idea if you both took a break. Interrupt an argument with a positive repair attempt. Sometimes, just recognizing that things arenīt going well in a given conversation and saying, īThis really sucks that weīre so angry at each other right now,ī can be beneficial. It can soften the two of you and short-circuit an argument before it escalates.
Even though every cell in your body may be intent on convincing your spouse that youīre right, remember that is not what is most important. Being "right" in a relationship is the booby prize. You win; the relationship loses. Instead, working out the discord with your spouse is what really needs to be topmost on the agenda. You canīt ever take words or actions back, regardless of how much you apologize. In a more calm state of mind your ability to be reasonable and to compromise can return. When you know there is no easy resolution in sight, see to it that temporary time and space gets in between you and your spouse, or you might end up with is a permanent void. Your anger comes out of your desire to have it work and your frustration that at the moment what you have is not what you want. If you are that angry, then you probably care quite a bit. So get out, take a breather and come back when youīve regained your perspective.
LOOK FOR A SOLUTION
Try and analyze what led to the situation being bad between you and try and rectify the damage. At this stage, it is really important to let your partner know that you have understood what he or she is trying to say to you. Even if you don t whole-heartedly agree to what they say, letting them know you understand is one way to defuse the situation. You should analyze whether the problem requires a little more time and understanding from both the sides. Avoid any solution where one of you gains at the otherīs expense.
"Most of our hostility focused on Sanjay s weekend golf," says Nina a former National level golfer. He wanted to play both days and she thought they should take turns looking after the baby. Finally Nina told Sanjay that she understood that golf was important for him to unwind after a stressful working week, and would not hassle him with further complaints. "Our relationship was too good to sabotage over a petty grievance." A few weeks later Sanjay without prompting proposed to take turns babysitting. And this solution worked perfectly for the couple.
When you present a problem, avoid expressing it as being the fault of your spouse. Where Nina used to formerly rave: "If you were less selfish, we wouldnīt have this problem," it didn t get her anything but discord. Working together towards a solution with each other s best interests in mind - will get you places and maintain harmony and the respect for each other.
The better you become at stating your complaints with your spouseīs feelings in mind, and then finding solutions with the same thoughtfulness, the more you will feel like getting to each problem immediately. Donīt try to lower your expectations, and donīt try to meet your own needs. Instead, learn to become experts at meeting each otherīs needs. To guarantee your love and respect for each other, you and your spouse must address each otherīs complaints as soon as they arise. That way you will have a fulfilling marriage.
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