My thoughts on 7 Ways Happy Couples Deal with Disagreements …

From:  Marc's library of blog pages ... [Link] ... read it all, as I'm only commenting into the things I thought of it ...

7 Ways Happy Couples Deal with Disagreements Differently

Differences of opinion don’t destroy relationships – it’s how a couple deals with their inevitable differences that counts.

1.  They both take responsibility.

When you deny responsibility in every relationship disagreement, all you’re really doing is blaming your partner.  You’re saying, in effect, “The problem is never me, it’s always you.”  This denial of responsibility just escalates the argument, because there’s a complete breakdown of communication.

So take responsibility for your actions.  Take responsibility for your relationship – the good times and the bad.  Work with your partner.  Communicate.  Blaming them is a copout that accomplishes nothing.  Either you both take equal ownership of the problems you two encounter together, or the problems will own both of you.

This is the strongest point – it’s like saying that both people are in the relationship together and both need to do things to make it better.  As if one person is at fault, but the relationship could have been a bit better with more help from the other person – whether it be a little note to remember to do something, a pick me up on a bad day, or a social cue.

2.  They are committed to dealing with disagreements, positively.

Often it can be easiest to run from a disagreement, especially if you’re not a confrontational person by nature.  But remember, this isn’t about you or whether or not you feel like dealing with your differences.  It’s about what your relationship needs in order to grow and thrive in the long run; so put these needs ahead of your own.  Both partners must be committed to dealing with their disagreements, because running from them will only make matters more difficult to deal with down the road.

One of the most effective tools couples can use to ease the process of dealing with disagreements is using positive language.  Relationships flourish when both people are able to share their innermost feelings and thoughts in a positive way.  One effective method of doing this during an argument is to do your best to avoid using the word “you” and try to use the word “I” instead.  This makes it much easier to express feelings and much harder to inadvertently attack the other person.  So… Instead of saying, “You are wrong,” try saying, “I don’t understand.”  Instead of telling them, “You always…” try saying “I often feel…”  It’s a subtle shift that can make a dig difference.

Definitely not using the “you” is important, but I’ve seen the “I” phrases turn into a combative game too many times … this tip is a good minimal technique, but I’m still searching for something better.

3.  They attack their disagreements, not each other.

Disagreements are fine, and arguments are too.  These are natural, focused reactions to a person’s decisions or behavior.  But when disagreements and arguments snowball into global attacks on the other person, and not on their decisions or behavior, this spells trouble.  For example: “They didn’t call me when they said they would because they forgot, but because they’re a horrible, wretched, evil person.”

Even when it’s hard to think clearly in the heat of the moment, you have to take a deep breath and remember that your partner is on your team.  Always support one another, even when you don’t see eye to eye.  Don’t take your stress out on the each other.  Keep your focus on the problematic disagreement and attack it together by talking it out and reaching a compromise.

4.  They practice intentional communication.

Your partner is not a mind reader.  Share your thoughts openly.  Give them the information they need rather than expecting them to know it all.  The more that remains unspoken, the greater the risk for problems.  Start communicating clearly.  Don’t try to read their mind, and don’t make them try to read yours.  Most problems, big and small, within a relationship start with broken communication.

Also, don’t listen so you can reply – listen to understand.  …

Huge, if you are hearing/listening, but not concentrating on understanding – then you are going to miss things and even if you didn’t, the other person will sense this and they will resent it.

Open your ears and mind to your partner’s concerns and opinions without judgment.  Look at things from your partner’s perspective as well as your own.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Even if you don’t understand exactly where they’re coming from, you can still respect them.  So turn your body towards them, look them in the eyes, turn off the computer, and put away your phone.  Doing so demonstrates that you actually want to communicate with your partner and hear what they have to say; this reinforces the sort of supportive environment that’s crucial for conflict resolution.  (Read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.)

5.  They let each other save face.

My grandmother once told me, “When somebody backs themselves into a corner, look the other way until they get themselves out; and then act as though it never happened.”  Allowing your partner to save face in this way, and not reminding them of what they already know is not their most intelligent behavior, is an act of great kindness.  This is possible when you realize that your partner behaves in such ways because they are in a place of momentary suffering.  They react to their own thoughts and feelings and their behavior often has nothing directly to do with you.

At some point we all inevitably have unreasonable mood swings.  We all have bad days.  Giving your partner the space to save face, and not taking things personally when they’re occasionally upset, cranky or having a bad day is a priceless gift.

Even if you are unquestionably right and your partner is unquestionably wrong, when emotions are flying high and you force them to lose face, you’re simply bruising their ego.  You’re accomplishing nothing but diminishing their own worth in their own eyes.  Do your best to let your partner preserve their dignity.  Give them space, let the emotions settle, and then have a rational conversation using the positive communication tactics discussed above in point #2.

I’m not sure if this gets subverted to avoid the discussion too often or not …

6.  They are willing to make sacrifices for each other.

The happiest intimate bonds are tied with true love, and true love involves attention, awareness, discipline, effort and being able to care about someone and sacrifice for them, continuously, in countless petty, little, unsexy ways every day.  You put your arms around them and love them regardless, even when they’re not seeing things your way.  And of course they do the same for you.

Absolutely massive, if you with hold the love during every little disagreement – why bother being in a relationship with that person?  Why be bitter or resentful and then vindictive about it?

If you really want to know what a happy, healthy relationship is, it’s one where two people wake up every morning and say, “This is worth it.  You are worth it.  I am happy you are in my life.”  It’s about true sacrifice.  It’s about knowing that some days you will have to do things you dislike to make the one you love smile, and feeling perfectly delighted to do so.

7.  They expect to disagree with each other on some things, and they’re OK with it.

Again, differences of opinion (even major ones) don’t destroy relationships – it’s how a couple deals with their inevitable differences that counts.

Some couples waste years trying to change each other’s mind, but this can’t always be done, because many of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of opinion, personality or values.  By fighting over these deep-seated differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and running their relationship into the ground.

So how do healthy, happy couples deal with disagreements that can’t be resolved?

They accept one another as is.  These couples understand that problems are an inevitable part of any long-term relationship, in the same way chronic physical difficulties are inevitable as we grow older and wiser.  These problems are like a weak knee or a bad back – we may not want these problems, but we’re able to cope with them, to avoid situations that irritate them, and to develop strategies that help us deal with them.  Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next 10, 20 or 50 years.”

(Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)


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