How to disagree without a knockout in round 3

Conflict can be part of a thriving marriage. It proves you care enough to have an opinion. However, making that opinion known can be stressful and challenging. Here are several thoughts on making your next disagreement successful.

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  • In every normal healthy marriage, disagreements inevitably come up. However, making sure these disagreements are productive presents a major challenge to many couples. Bearing the following items in mind, even arguments can be a positive part of your thriving marriage.

  • Conflict is normal

  • When we are single, the most intimate relationships in our lives are generally those with our parents, or a select set of dear friends. These relationships follow very different rules from a marriage. In marriage, we combine unparalleled expressions of physical affection with the camaraderie of best friends and the long-term attachment of family. This basically means a man and woman, who are by nature very different, are now completely and permanently entangled in each other’s lives. Conflict is bound to happen. This is important to remember so that you don’t think something is “wrong” with your marriage just because you sometimes disagree. (However, if there is violence involved, please seek professional help immediately.)

  • Conflict is healthy

  • The differences between you and your spouse, such as gender, personality and interests, present unique challenges to your marriage. On the other hand, these differences offer the greatest opportunities for character development. Remembering this helps us to be grateful for differences instead of resenting them as a burden.

  • How about an example? My husband likes straightforward facts, simple processes and concrete thinking. I, on the other hand, make decisions based on gut instinct and explore abstract notions in a haphazard way. Sometimes we feel like we’re speaking different languages. However, the conflicts we share help us to become more empathetic to others, even when it’s hard. Additionally, these same differences allow us to be more balanced people. I am more grounded and sensible with his help, and my husband is more proactive and engaged with mine.

  • Voice down and ears open

  • Some people find it a challenge to speak kindly in a disagreement. I don’t have that problem most of the time; generally I bite my tongue and use a regulated tone of voice and remain outwardly calm. I struggle with truly listening. Despite my serene exterior, I am inwardly ranting. WHY do I have to be calm when I’m the one who is right? WHY doesn’t my husband get what I’m saying? WHY would he do what he’s doing when I’m already showing him the right way to do it?

  • That kind of thinking won’t get us anywhere in a disagreement. By not allowing our emotions to gain control of us, we can hear our spouse’s side of things without judging or taking offense. Vocal volume and intonation are often key indicators of your emotional state (and your willingness to compromise) so keep in mind that the goal is not to be right, but to listen.

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  • Show love, even when disagreeing

  • Gentle touch can do wonders to reduce the tension in conflict. Small demonstrations of affection can communicate such important messages as “I’m on your team,” “I’m listening,” and “I’m sorry, that must be hard” just as well as actually saying it. Accompanied with a listening ear and a soft tone, touch can turn arguments into conversations, and conversations enable each spouse to share thoughts freely, working toward a productive result.

  • Don't panic

  • Really, the take-home message here, is that everything is going to be fine. Although your spouse may not understand you all of the time, he or she loves you and wants you to be happy. Bumps along the road are normal and even healthy. When you both listen and speak with love and patience, disagreements can actually bring you closer as a couple and make your home together more stable and complete. You’re a little bit closer to becoming “one.”

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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