Couples disagree. That’s normal. But how you argue — especially how you end an argument — can determine the long-term success of the relationship. If your only goal is to ‘win’ then you will ultimately end up losing big time! If you make your relationship a competition, that means your spouse has to lose in order for you to win. It’s not a competition; it’s a partnership.
Use these five rules for working through conflict and you’ll set a solid foundation for dealing with issues in the future.
1. Keep it private
Don’t argue in front of others, especially kids. Involving your children in an argument borders on child abuse and will scar them longer than it will you. They don’t have the same coping mechanisms that adults have, so they will have to either blame themselves or they will have to pick one parent over the other.
2. Keep it tight
Put boundaries around the topic so the conversation doesn’t deteriorate into a free-for-all. Don’t bring up old sore points when they don’t belong in a particular discussion. When you fight about everything, you fight about nothing.
3. Keep it real
Deal with the issue that is truly bothering you, not with a symptom of the problem. If you don’t know what’s at the core of your issue, take a time-out and figure it out. Get real about what is bothering you, or you will come away even more frustrated. Have the courage to look into your true feelings.
4. Avoid attacking character
Stay focused on the issue rather than attacking your partner personally. When you ratchet up to name calling, what are you going to accomplish? By doing so, you’re not going to get any closer to a peaceful resolution? Such personalized pain will outlast the argument and can hurt for a very long time.
5. Let your spouse to retreat with dignity
How an argument ends is crucial. Recognize when an olive branch is being extended to you, and give your partner a way out of the disagreement. If you don’t let your partner to retreat with dignity, you are in trouble because that is a huge predictor of divorce. Whatever happens, you must be a gracious winner and allow your partner to walk away with his dignity in tact. Also, be prepared to not get your way. Recognize when preserving the relationship is more important than getting your way.