You want to know how to save your marriage, trying to rescue your marriage from the brink of divorce – and you seem to be treading water and going under. You and your spouse have vicious fights, and you feel it’s causing even more damage to your already shaky marriage.
Is it time to call in the divorce lawyer and end your marriage? Or do you want guidance on how to save your marriage?
Hold the phone. In this blog, learn how fighting can actually save your marriage – and tips for getting through those tough, emotionally-laden arguments.
Leading Researcher Looks at Marriage Conflict
Marriage counselors have for years listened to couples rail at one another about a range of marital and personal issues, ranging from affairs to hobbies to who does/doesn’t-do dishes. We’ve also watched couples on television fighting their way into divorce court, where the couple can now wield the law as a weapon in their continuing fight.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that fighting is not healthy. And depending on how you fight, it’s not. – but it just may hold the key to how to save your marriage.
Many couples in the midst of heated arguments know that they’re on shaky ground and could be setting themselves up for a divorce that neither spouse wants. If you’ve been in this situation, you know what that feels like: you fear what’s happening – the contempt and anger you’re showing to one another – and yet, feel powerless to stop it.
Leading marriage researcher John Gottman has studied why marriages are either successful or ultimately fail. He bravely witnessed interactions between husbands and wives, no doubt an uncomfortable experience at times as couples tore into one another. He followed up with these couples over the years to see how their marriages fared.
The results of his work pointed to some specific indicators of a marriage on the verge of collapse versus one that makes it through. One key finding was that it’s not having conflict that dooms a marriage – it’s how we resolve those inevitable conflicts that are going to spring up in a marriage. Specifically, whether you fight or don’t fight is not as important as whether your interactions are balanced between the negative and positive spectrum.
There isn’t a single answer as to how to fix your marriage. We’re talking complex human interactions here with all of the nuances of emotion, personality and circumstance to influence that interaction.
However, there are some guidelines to help you and your spouse resolve your disputes in a constructive way, rather than ripping the marriage bond asunder in your individual quests to be heard, understood and vindicated.
Do Heated Arguments Signal Marriage’s End?
Just because you and your spouse have heated arguments does not mean you are headed for divorce court. On the contrary: this just may be your style of communicating with one another. Some couples hash it out, while others avoid conflict altogether. It’s what works for your individual situation and personalities.
With that stated, there are techniques for fighting in a cleaner, more constructive fashion than what you and your spouse are presently doing. There should be ground rules, so that you and your spouse don’t end up causing harm to one another in your efforts to express your feelings and thoughts, and then struggle with how to save your marriage once things have reached the breaking point. Here are three guidelines to follow:
Guideline #1: Set Aside Time/Place for Discussion
By treating the time you use to discuss issues with your partner as important, you and your spouse will be casting a different atmosphere than if you randomly jump into a heated topic. Designating a time and place for talking helps both of you feel like you’re prepared, and can set a different tone to the discussion that you may not get when the conversation occurs spontaneously.
For example, let’s say your spouse brings up a hot-button issue five minutes after you get in from work. You’re tired, hungry – and just had a dreadful commute. How do you think this will affect your response to what your spouse is saying?
Guideline #2: Provide Advance Notice to What’s Up for Discussion
If you and your continually spouse back yourselves into opposing corners in the discussion ring, it may be time to try this guideline. Similar to setting a time and place to talk, you can both feel more prepared about what you’ve agreed to talk about in advance.
A lot of discussions and arguments end in stalemate because one or both partners may feel cornered, or even broadsided, by the topic that is brought up. This can cause a defensive reaction as that partner reacts to “protect” themselves, and the other partner responds in kind. If there’s advance notice given – especially about a potentially heated topic or hot-button issue – both partners have an expectation so they don’t feel caught off-guard.
Guideline #3: Have a Retreat Plan in Place
You may have been in a situation where you’re having a conversation with your spouse, it becomes heated, then overheated – and then hits the boiling-over point. You know it’s happening, your spouse knows it’s happening, but both of you stick to your guns and continue to try to prove your point.
By agreeing to take a recess prior to things reaching a boiling point, you will find that your discussions and conflicts will become better managed. The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to resolve conflict is to fan the flames and create hard feelings, because that inevitably gets added to the conflict pot and will need to be addressed in a future discussion – adding to the conflict needing to be resolved.
You and your spouse should strive to manage your conflict before it manages you. Marital conflict isn’t bad in and of itself: it’s how it’s handled that counts. My best to you as you and your spouse work through conflict and rebuild your marriage.