Guest post by B. Anne Hancock, PsyD
There’s nothing wrong with a married couple having an argument. In fact, some level of conflict
is a good sign because it means the couple is communicating, rather than hiding emotions and
avoiding intimacy. That said, there’s a big difference between the occasional disagreement and
nonstop squabbling. Do you feel like you’re always having the same fight? Has there been a
breach of trust that’s now bubbling up in little disagreements all the time? Perhaps life has been
overwhelming lately, and you’ve lost sense of what matters most. Whatever the case, if you’re in
a relationship where the fights never stop, you may need practical help to set a new course.
Keep reading for advice on how to get to the cause of constant bickering and resolve it before it takes
over your marriage.
What's behind all those conflicts?
Have you ever wondered why some couples communicate in a healthy way about disagreements
and others get bogged down in constant fights? One important key is what they’re arguing about.
For example, are you frustrated about who did the dishes last, or are you wondering if your
partner truly cares about you? When you’re sparring about where to spend the holidays this year,
is it about the travel plans or feeling controlled by your spouse? Couples who solve conflicts in a
healthy way have learned how to look past surface issues to what’s happening underneath them.
This allows them to cut to the main problem and expedites their ability to resolve it.
Working through an argument
Even if you understand the root issues of a fight, you still need to work through them properly.
Healthy couples know not to have a serious heart-to-heart in the car before walking into the in-
laws’ house on Thanksgiving. They also steer clear of poor discussion habits, such as shouting,
attacking or refusing to look at the situation from another point of view. Rather, they choose
times when they’ll be able to focus and communicate clearly. They look for areas of
compromise. They focus on the reasons they want to be together and work towards resolution.
5 strategies for preventing bickering before it starts
If fighting is the norm for you and your spouse, you may want to think about conflict prevention.
Happy couples know what does and doesn’t work, and they adjust accordingly. With that in
mind, consider the following strategies to prevent bickering before it starts:
In marriage, one of the most important lessons to learn is when and when not to fight. If you’ve
been going through a period of major conflict, stop and think about what’s really going on. How
can you and your spouse move toward, instead of away from, each other? Use the tips above to
chart a new course for your relationship — and gain a more peaceful, happier life.
About the author
B. Anne Hancock, PsyD is a prominent marriage therapist and founder of Wellness Counseling Center. A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Hancock specializes in working with couples and families. She has a doctorate in Psychology and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Hancock always works from a wellness-oriented, non-pathologizing point of view — which means no blame, no shame. In addition to couples counseling services, Hancock also conducts personalized two-and-a-half-day couples intensives.
Love is not an emotion. (Joy is an emotion and many people do experience joy as a result of love.)
Love is an action - a decision to "will the good of another." Because love is an action, that also means that love (and consequently any and all relationships) require work. But... family life is busy. Between the constant needs of children, the demands of work, the unending household chores... how can you maintain the relationships you cherish? Of course, you show love to you family when do you things like feed them nourishing food or clean their clothes, but sometimes you need a little bit more than that to really keep those connections strong. Here are four tips to strengthen any relationship - spouse, child, or even a friend.
Always tell the truth
This one might seem obvious, but there's no quicker relationship damper than a lie. It's not always easy nor pleasant but having an open line of communication with your spouse is a guaranteed way to strengthen the relationship. Working through difficult situations can actually become a source of renewal in a relationship but only if the journey is not dotted with lies.
For children, reassuring them of your love can help keep lying at bay. Telling lies can become a self-preservation mechanism if s/he thinks love will be withdrawn. A few weeks ago, I noticed my son had an accident but hid the evidence. I found the evidence and questioned him. He looked into my eyes and denied it - despite the fact that it was obvious. I told him I knew the truth and he looked flustered. "I didn't want to get in trouble," he explained. Of course, who would want to get in trouble? No one. I reminded him that no matter what, I always love him. Even if he does something wrong, I do not love him less. He immediately relaxed and confessed. The next day, he spilled some milk and came running to me. "Mama, I made a mess. I'm telling you the truth." At least for now, he no longer feels the need to lie about messes because he knows my love is unconditional.
Wait for the right moment to give correction
I recently read an article about a father who defines his parenting style as "Mary Poppins" - for every medicine (correction or discipline) he gives, he first makes sure to lay on the sugar (love). I found this to be such a brilliant way to look at parenting and how true it is!
How often have you been corrected and, instead of allowing the advice to better yourself, felt only bitterness at having been corrected? Have you ever done 10 things right and received criticism on the one thing you did wrong? It doesn't feel good, does it? In any relationship, there will be a time where one person offers constructive (hopefully, it's constructive) criticism. The key to offering the advice without damaging the relationship or crushing the spirit is to be careful attention to when you offer the criticism. Whether it's a spouse or child, how you to choose to give criticism or correction can really affect your relationship. No one wants to be corrected in front of a whole group of people; if you can, pull aside your partner or child and speak privately. Don't add embarrassment to the issue at hand.
Set them up to win
Setting up your spouse/friend/child to win is a great way to strengthen your relationship. Why does this work? When you support someone, they feel encouraged, motivated, and loved by you which in turn creates a stronger bond between the two of you. This doesn't have to be anything extravagant; support can be something as simple as making their day easier.
Learn their love language (and yours too while you're at it)
One of my favorite family-oriented books is the Love Language series by Gary Chapman. The premise of these books is that every experiences love in difference "languages." Learning the love language of your son, daughter, or spouse can dramatically affect your relationship.
My older son's love language is quality time, and I see instantly how he is transformed by some good ol' one-on-one time. It doesn't matter if I buy him a boatload of new toys or spend 5 hours in the kitchen making him his favorite food or praising him for an hour, nothing says "I love you" (to him) like getting on the floor and playing trains or puzzles or building with Lincoln Logs.
What are ways that you implement these four tips? Comment below!
Dear Crush aka My Husband,
I love the way you make me coffee each morning.
I love the way you laugh.
I love how you always win when we wrestle.
I love your ocean eyes.
I love your generous spirit, your loving soul.
I love the way you always strive to be the best person you can be.
I love your gentleness, your goofiness, your creativeness.
I love your sleepy eyes when you first wake up.
I love how you comfort me when I'm sad, how you cheer me up when I need to laugh.
I love how you like to make concoctions in the kitchen.
I love your sense of adventure, your sense of gratitude, your appreciation for nature.
I love the way you "go green."
I love dancing in the living room with you.
I love our dates and our field trips.
I love gazing into your eyes.
I love when you hold me, kiss me.
I love the way you looked at me as you recited your vows.
I love your smiley eyes.
I love how you love me.
I love everything about you.
But most of all, I love YOU.
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.