Disagreement is Inevitable in Marriage But You Can Settle Your Differences
How You Handle Disagreement Matters
At the time a couple get married, they are usually happy and in love. Many couples enter marriage with many dreams and great expectations of an eternal joyful co-habitation. Because they love each other they believe that they will automatically live happily forever. But because there is some adjustment to make about some of their inevitable differences in personality there are bound to be problems and conflicts which however they should try to resolve amicably. Michael J. McManus wrote, “Conflict is inevitable. What matters is how it is handled.”
There is no denying the fact that all couples disagree from time to time. Disagreement takes place in every marriage for a number of reasons, great or small. Effective communication is the key to marital stability. Each partner should give vent to his views freely. Disagreement is a means of effective communication in marriage because in polite discussions most partners are not always wholesomely frank about their feelings in a particular situation so as not to arouse the ire of the other.
Disagreement helps each partner to acquire a deeper knowledge of the other. The realization that your love is strong enough to survive a disagreement is of benefit to your marriage. Cathartic quarrels help to vent some of the tensions developed over a period of time. There are two schools of thought concerning disagreement. Some people feel that polemic encounters between couples should be avoided at all cost while the other group believes that disagreement is an unavoidable vicissitude of marriage.
When disagreement is avoided at all cost, there is no opportunity of resolving a conflict of opinions and consequently tensions develop and disharmony set in. In this era of women liberation, disagreement is inevitable because it is clear indication that the husband and wife regard each other as equal and not subservient partner. The most important thing in all disagreements is how they are handled by the partners. It is a yardstick of measuring if the couples are building a successful marriage or a tumultuous one.
Howard J. Markman et al wrote in their book For Your Marriage: Positive Steps for Preventing Divorce and Preserving a Lasting Love, “But twenty-five years of research tell us that success in marriage is related not so much to the nature of the differences they have. If you want to have a great relationship, the way you handle differences matters more than what those differences are.”
It is healthy for a couple to feel that disagreement is an acceptable part of marriage and that disagreement in opinion should not lead to separation or divorce. It should however be realized that your partner will be more honest with you if he/she knows that occasional disagreeing with your ideas will not end your marriage. A person who is well-adjusted and faces life with realism cannot afford not to disagree with her partner occasionally because she knows that sulking or brooding or being moody about problems do not solve them but only leads to discontent and sometimes to separation or even divorce.
When a woman fails to give vent to her problems and makes no attempt to try to solve them, it often stultifies what would have been an idyllic relationship. When you argue for what you believe, it helps to strengthen your marriage because then it becomes symbiotic relationship where both partners contribute to the marriage. Disagreement could be constructive or destructive. Destructive disagreement mostly involves speaking slightingly of your partner in such a way as to bring his name into disrepute, passing derogatory remarks and displaying of excess anger by one or both partners. In this case, the partners are rarely able to solve the problems and it leads to profound frustration and unhappiness.
Marital conflicts may be natural, but it doesn’t have to be messy. It is dangerous to belittle your partner or mention his weaknesses during disagreement. Always make your spouse feel important. John Dewey said that the desire to be important is the deepest urge in human nature; and William James said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
In some people’s tantrum, they say things that hurt their mate so much only to regret saying them later. Therefore, control your temper. Remember, you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry. Listen first. Give your spouse a chance to talk. Let him/her finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher barriers of misunderstanding.
Opera tenor specialist, Jan Peerce, after he was married nearly fifty years, once said: “My wife and I made a pact a long time ago, and we’ve kept it no matter how angry we’ve grown with each other. When one yells, the other should listen because when two people yell, there is no communication, just noise and bad vibrations.”
When you have heard your spouse out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your spouse and reduce defensiveness. Promise to think over your spouse’s ideas and study them carefully. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are.
A quarrel is constructive when the partners discuss the issues of disagreement and learn to communicate with each other. In a conflict, you should not seek to win at all cost but to ensure that you and your spouse come to a better understanding of each other’s point of view. Actually, a quarrel can be adduced constructive if it has two results: a diminishing of the initial conflict and an understanding of one another’s perspective. In this case it is not a win-lose but a win-win situation.
There is wisdom in choosing not to quarrel about every issue. Some things are worth fighting for; some are not. Marriage, like all relationships, involves give and take. Sometimes the best thing to do in a situation is to overlook your hurt, swallow your pride, and set aside your own needs and desires for the common good of your family. Sometimes you want to win so much that you won’t let an issue go. If you don’t let go, often the quarrel becomes quite emotional, and you end up doing or saying things you may later regret. Jesus said in Mark 3:25, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Every dream is not meant to become a reality in life. When you are at fault, be ready and willing to ask for forgiveness and the other person should forgive. “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:13). But you might be amazed at how much your heart, mind, and desires can change when you have had time to think and pray about it. Romans 14:19 says, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Winning an argument and getting what you want may feel good in the short term, but you gain more in the long run if at times you concede.
When we are right, let’s try to win our spouse gently and tactfully to our way of thinking; when we are wrong and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves let’s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm. Not only will it produce astonishing results, but, it is a lot more mature, than trying to defend that which is not defendable. Our first natural reaction in a disagreement situation is to be defensive. Be careful.
When you need to approach your spouse about a matter that may prompt disagreement, you have to choose your time wisely. There are times to stand up for what you want or need. There are times to bring up a hurt or frustration and discuss it. If any particular issue is going to continue to bother you, you should not overlook it. It is better to discuss the matter than allow it to fester and grow into a bigger problem. Making your spouse aware of your interests, needs, and desires is healthy. But creating a war over those interests, needs, desires is destructive, and more often than not, both unhealthy and unnecessary.
When is the worst time to discuss a touchy issue or have disagreement with your spouse? Don’t choose when your spouse is tired or hungry. Wait until he is relaxed, and in a quiet place where the two of you can be alone and discuss freely without interruption. You should handle touchy issues during the day, not late in the evening when your spouse might be tired and irritable. Always avoid having a heated argument before you go to bed. You might not be able to sleep. Always go to bed in peace, even if that means setting aside your anger and frustration for the night. You may find that your emotions are not as charged and the issue doesn’t seem as big after a good night’s rest.
It is wise to postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. Suggest that the issue be discussed later, when all the facts may be brought to bear. In preparation for this discussion, ask yourself some hard questions. Could my partner be right? Partly right? Is there truth or merit in his/her position? Is my reaction one that will relieve the problem? Will my reaction drive my spouse further away or draw her/him closer to me? Will my reaction elevate the estimation he/she have of me? Will I win or lose? What price will I have to pay if I win? If I am quiet about it, will the disagreement blow over? Is this difficult situation an opportunity for me?
Time of the day is not the only variable to consider in timing a discussion with your spouse. The time of the month is equally important too. During the month there is what is called the fluctuating of hormones. During your monthly hormonal changes, you may feel very emotional. Variety of symptoms that can surface during this time, include, feeling of despair, negative attitudes toward, yourself and others, impulsiveness, fatigue, and a sense of loss. The good news is that these symptoms usually subside after a few days.
A quarrel should purge your mind of your earlier tensions, resentments, fears and anxieties. No two people can live for years without some problems, conflicts and pains. Therefore quarrelling is healthy.
In conclusion, become genuinely interested in your spouse. Be a good listener. Encourage your spouse to talk about himself/herself. Make your spouse fell important. The best road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. Richard Templar wrote in The Rules of Life: “There are two situations where people lose their temper –justified and manipulative. The first is where you can run over their foot with your car and refuse to apologize or acknowledge you have done anything wrong. The second is where people use anger to get their own way a sort of emotional blackmail.” Whichever be your situation, handle it with care. Buddha said: “Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love.” And a misunderstanding is never ended by an argument but by tact, diplomacy, conciliation and a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s viewpoint.