Just when everything is going great and it’s all sunshine and roses, bam, a disagreement happens with your spouse or your significant other. It sucks. It’s inevitable that you’ll have a disagreement with your spouse, but does it have to turn into a fight? Do you fight dirty?
When you have a disagreement do you immediately try and get the upper hand? Do you quickly jump into defense mode? Do you start listing off all the ways your spouse is wrong, and bring up stuff from the past? Do you resort to name calling, or worse? Do you make threats to leave? Is your goal simply to win? If you do this, then you my friend are fighting dirty.
My husband and I had a disagreement right before our anniversary. We’ve been married for almost two years and it literally happened right before our very first anniversary and our trip with our kiddos for Spring Break. Boo.
I wasn’t happy about the way he handled something. Really, my feelings were just hurt. I wasn’t torn up about it, but I thought we could have both handled the situation a lot better. It’s not really even important what we were fighting about. Honestly, we just weren’t taking the time to communicate carefully because we were both so pressed for time. We were pushing to get a ton of stuff done for work, so we could take the week off for Spring Break with the kids. You know, regular life stuff? We are generally very careful about how we talk to each other. We’ve both been in un-happy marriages, divorced and struggling on our own. We both know how hard it is to raise children on your own, so we are so unbelievably grateful to have found each other and have a second chance. We will not “F” it up!
Bottom line, you will always have something to fight about in relationships. It’s not really what you fight about, however, it’s how you fight. I actually hate using the word fight, because it shouldn’t be a fight. It really should be a healthy and respectful debate. If anything, it should be a slightly heated conversation at most.
I remember I took the day to process my feelings because there’s one thing that I know for sure. Regardless of what my husband and I fight about, I know that he always puts his family first. No matter what, every single decision he makes is directly related to his ability to take care of his family. Whenever we have a disagreement I make a point to remember this. Then I try to come at it from his perspective. I also make a point to remember all of the great things he has done recently so I don’t go off the chain mad! It’s not easy to do, but it’s so important.
Don’t enter the fight with your dukes up! Let your guard down. Remember you love this person. It should be a discussion. You have to be open and willing to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to open yourself up to constructive criticism. No one is perfect. You have to trust that you both are having the discussion to deepen your relationship. The goal should be the same for both of you. The goal should be to rectify the situation so that it brings you even closer. You should shoot for understanding and compassion. You also want to think long and hard about what you will say. Prepare. Prepare for the discussion. Practice saying it in your head to make sure that when it comes out, it’s not accusatory. It should be about how it makes you feel, that’s it. Then you discuss a way to make it better, or to prevent it from possibly happening again. Then you say I’m sorry! Even if you’re not really sure what you’re sorry about! Yep, I mean it. If anything you’re sorry because your spouse is upset. You inadvertently did something to upset them. That’s enough for an apology.
Do not attack! If you attack someone, they will naturally fight back. It’s the natural human response. We’re human. We all make mistakes. I highly doubt your spouse is an evil villain who has set out to destroy you!
When I was married before I took a completely different approach. I tried to win the fight. I tried to tell my ex-husband that what he did was wrong, and he needed to apologize or face the consequences. I tried to win with threats. I tried to get the upper hand because I thought relationships were like that. I thought that I had to be in control. If I had the upper hand, then I was in control and I was safe. We were constantly butting heads. We both were fighting for control, because neither of us was completely in control of our own emotions. We weren’t self -aware and we were simply trying to be the top dog. It was so dumb and completely counterproductive.
Do you respect your spouse?
I ask this question, because believe it or not, some people do not respect their spouse, or they don’t treat them with respect. Some people have lost respect for their spouse over the years for whatever reason.
This may seem obvious to most of my readers who are self-aware, but it took me a long time to figure this out. In my first marriage, I was so afraid to be alone, so I married a person I thought I could control. Later on, I realized that I didn’t respect the person I married. I didn’t really have control over him, but I thought I did. I didn’t do this knowingly, by the way. It was more of a survival mechanism because I didn’t really know who I was. I wasn’t self-aware, so I didn’t really understand my own internal motivations. I just knew that I didn’t want to be alone, so I felt I had to be in control.
Obviously, I was never in control because we ended up getting a divorce. I think a lot of people unfortunately do this. They pick someone they think they can control because they’re afraid. They pick someone safe. Then years later they realize that they don’t even know who the person is they’ve married. Inevitably, you’re unable to control the person you’re with, so you’re forced to look at yourself. You have issues that have nothing to do with the other person. The realization comes when you’re no longer able to control the outcome, whatever the desired outcome may be. We play it safe and don’t really let anyone into our heart. We pick someone we can control because so we aren’t forced to face our own issues. We aren’t forced to challenge ourselves and we instead seek to control the situation.
Control is a cover up for weakness.
When I see someone who has to be in control of their spouse, or is generally a controlling person, I feel very sorry for that person. I know they’re having internal struggles and that really the person is feeling weak and unsure. Control is a sign of weakness. When you’re able to give up having to be in control at all times, wonderful things begin to happen in your life.
When you’re able to give up control, you’re okay when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page. You know it’s not the end of the world and that you will work it out. You know that you’re okay in your own mental space, and so the need to have control begins to go away.
If you’re okay with not being in control, that is when you know you can pretty much handle anything that comes your way. You are mentally strong.
The result? You don’t have to win. You want resolve. You realize that we are all a little messed up. We all have different perceptions based on the experiences we have. So, the result should be to create a positive experience with your spouse. Change the experience from one of negativity and disdain, to one of love and support. Love and support your spouse, and your spouse will have no choice but to do it back. If they don’t? Well, then you might need to take a good look at the person you’ve decided to marry. This takes time by the way. If you’ve settled into unhealthy habits with your spouse, they will wander what you’re up to if all of a sudden your methods change! It will take time. If you’re with a person who is able to look within and who is self-aware, however, good habits will develop. Be kind to each other. Love each other.
Did you know there are three relationships involved when you’re married?
There’s the relationship you have with yourself.
The relationship your spouse has with him or herself.
The third relationship is the relationship you have together.
I firmly believe that you both have to take care of yourself on a personal level. You have the responsibility to yourself and to your spouse to take care of YOU so that you’re able to show up in the best way possible to your relationship. Then, you have to nurture the relationship itself.
You must approach your relationship as its own entity. You must protect it. You must respect it.
Why am I talking about control and not about fighting?
I believe when you feel like you have to be in control, that’s when you tend to fight with your spouse.
If you’re not married yet, and still looking for your soul mate, then I suggest this.
Pick a person who inspires you. If you pick someone who inspires you, then you will respect that person. Pick someone who you think is just a little bit better than you in a sense. I’m not saying you worship them okay! However, if you don’t feel fortunate to have this person in your life, then why are you together? If you have someone in your life that you feel fortunate to be with, then you will always feel the pressure to be at your best. If you feel fortunate to be with that person then you will value him or her. If you value your spouse, then you will do more work to protect the relationship. You will make sure that you show up to the relationship with your best foot forward.
Be with someone you value, who you respect and who you think just might be a little bit better than you! (wink, wink).
I remember when I met my husband. After my divorce, I did lot of soul searching and had to find myself. There were a list of traits that I was working on for myself. These were traits I thought important to demonstrate as an individual in order to be a happy and successful adult. (I actually wrote another post about this. Be Who You Want to Date.) It was pretty crazy but when I met my husband, I realized he displayed those traits. He displayed the traits that I was working on for myself!
I was hyper focused on myself at that point. I was focused on re-creating myself in a sense, or simply trying to be better at those traits that I found so important. Traits I respected. I couldn’t believe that I met someone who was so good at demonstrating those very traits himself. I was immediately intrigued by him. I was inspired by him. I was literally drawn to him and I didn’t even realize it, but I was starting to fall for him. I respected him and valued him so much for being the person that I was trying to be myself.
I respected the shit out of him!
Talk about someone who inspires me. Every day my husband inspires me to be better. He doesn’t criticize or correct me ever. He inspires me. He sees the good inside of me. Instead of pointing out when I’m not doing my best, he points it out when I’m doing my best and don’t even realize it. Even when he sees that I’m struggling he tells me I’m doing a great job. When you hear that you’re doing a great job, you want to keep working towards your goals. When you hear you suck at something, it just makes you feel bad. It also makes you very resentful of the person who is criticizing you. Just remember that when you take a dig at your partner.
Do You Criticize Your Partner?
You’re damaging the relationship every time you criticize each other. You’re literally building a huge wall of resentment. You should be lifting each other up, not putting each other down. You should be each other’s biggest supporter. The person you pick after all is your life partner. Doesn’t it make sense that you would want to lift them up and not put them down. If anything it will improve your own life when your partner is successful.
If you find yourself constantly trying to change your partner, you may need to take a close look at yourself. The only person you can really change is yourself.
The only control you really have is control over your own thoughts and actions.
I was reading a book called “The Power of the Other” by Dr. Henry Cloud. He’s a psychologist and is considered to be one of the most influential leaders in personal growth and development. There’s a chapter in his book called the Bermuda Triangle of Relationships. He discusses a concept called triangulation. To keep it simple, this is basically what happens when you go to someone outside of your relationship and complain about your partner. He’s not talking about seeking counsel from someone that you trust, but rather complaining to get someone on your side.
You know what I mean, and we’re all guilty of doing this! We get annoyed with our spouse, and instead of discussing it with them directly, we complain to our friends about it. We’re looking for validation from an outside source that we’re right and our spouse is wrong. Of course this doesn’t solve anything. What this does is create divisiveness in our relationship. According to Dr. Cloud, this is one of the most destructive forces in a marriage! Do not do this! Listen, if you do it occasionally because you’re simply relating to your friend then don’t beat yourself up about it. However, if this is something that you regularly do, then you may be unwilling to look at yourself.
Don’t bad mouth your spouse. That’s one of the worst things that you can do to him or her. You should be complimentary of your spouse. Remember, as much as they may be driving you crazy lately, you love this person. So, do yourself a favor and sit down directly with the source. Communicate with your spouse about what’s bothering you in a non-accusatory manner and figure out what’s going on. Figure out how you both feel about it and see what you can do to work it out.
When you bad mouth your spouse, all that you’re doing is damaging your relationship and you’re most certainly NOT going to solve the issue. Respect your spouse enough to not bad mouth him or her. Also, watch out for others who bait you! You know what I’m talking about. Do you have a friend who constantly rags on her husband? Don’t take the bait and join in. Set and example and talk nicely about your spouse. Maybe he or she will get the hint and jump on board.
I know it may seem harmless to complain or bad mouth your spouse occasionally, but just remember that it’s hurting your relationship. It’s creating a divide between you and the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with. Keep that in mind the next time you want to take a dig at your partner. Also, think about how much you would like it if your spouse was complaining to someone about you. How would that make you feel?
Respect your spouse and don’t criticize.
Do you focus on only the bad stuff?
Positive reinforcement. You know about this! My husband and I both practice positive reinforcement with each other because we want to be happy together. We choose to focus on the good instead of the bad. We lift each other up, rather than put each other down. I never criticize my husband. Never. He never criticizes me. I never tell him what to do and he never tells me what to do. Never. I did that in my first marriage and I learned my lesson!
Like all married couples we argue sometimes, but we don’t really fight. We talk. I tell him how something he did made me feel bad, and then he listens to me. He says he’s sorry even if he didn’t mean to do anything. Of course he didn’t mean to hurt me. Of course not! Do we ever really mean to hurt someone we care about? None of us (unless we’re crazy) go around trying to hurt our spouse or significant other intentionally. If you are, then you need to do some serious soul searching and think about why the hell you’re with this person. You also need to take a good look at yourself. Is that who you want to be? Of course not!
When my husband and I have a disagreement, we both make sure to apologize for making the other person feel badly, even though it wasn’t our intent. If anything we apologize for not doing a better job at communicating. We apologize and forgive each other for not being perfect. We figure out how we should handle the issue next time. We come up with a solution and self-reflect. We apologize and then we move on with our day. We don’t hold grudges. We talk respectfully to each other and we don’t attack each other.
Sometimes I’ll admit I’m still too mad. I’m also afraid to say something that will damage our relationship, or worse hurt him. When I’m not sure what to say, I say this. “Honey, I love you. I’m upset but I’m still trying to process my emotions. I’m not ready to talk yet until I figure my stuff out.”
I’m not kidding. Just be honest. You can simply say “I’m really upset.” You can say “I’m feeling confused right now.” You don’t have to talk about it right away. It’s so important to let your feelings process and not act on them immediately. If I wait a few hours then I’ve taken the time to process my feelings, and also cool down a bit.
I practice what I’m going to say in my head a million times. Not to win the fight, but to make sure that I get my point across in the kindest way possible. I love this man and I care about our relationship. I protect our relationship. I always begin with “I love you so much.” Then, I say “it makes me feel (insert bad feeling) when you did (insert action). Yes, use your feeling words! You can read more about your delivery here in my previous blog post.
Get it out and don’t let it fester longer than a day. Don’t let more than one day pass without discussing whatever it is that’s bothering you. Otherwise, it festers and becomes something bigger than it really is. Get it out and deal with it. If you don’t get on the same page fast, you will literally drive a wedge between you both. You will both go on with your day and then the issue literally takes on a life of its own. The narrative becomes something entirely different according to you because you didn’t talk about it and get on the same page. It can actually become something much bigger than it really needs to be. It can actually become something that isn’t even reality!
We get so stuck in our own head and thoughts that we don’t even take into consideration the other perspective. We get dead set on why the other person is wrong, before we even have a discussion about it. Sometimes its a minor miscommunication and you can move on! Aren’t you glad you talked about it and didn’t hold a grudge for a week?
You can get so divided and separated by letting your thoughts fester that you will have an even harder time getting on the same page. Then something else happens, you don’t talk about that, and it continues to build and build. Before you know it, you don’t even know what the hell is going on anymore or where to even begin to tackle your issues. You find yourself completely disconnected from your partner. You find yourself feeling completely at a loss. Use compassion and respect and don’t do the blame game. We’re all imperfect beings just trying to do our best. Remember that. Talk about it (kindly) and nip it in the bud!
Your Spouse Doesn’t Owe You Anything.
Some people feel like their partner owes them something. Nobody owes you anything. You don’t owe anyone anything (except your children of course). Your partner should do things for you because they want to do them and not because they owe you. Your partner should be there for you because he or she loves and appreciates you and not because they’re your spouse and that’s their job. When we start to play the you should game, that’s when problems arise. Are you thinking “What have you done for me lately?” I believe you should be asking yourself the same question. When you want your spouse to do something nice for you, try doing something nice for your spouse instead. Show what you want by doing it yourself. Show you appreciate your spouse through action. Earn it. I believe that love is earned.
Maybe you disagree with me? Maybe you think that when you say “I do” that you do owe your spouse. Maybe so, but I don’t think that mind set works. We value the things we work the hardest for. Period.
If you don’t demonstrate your love and you don’t respect your spouse, then that’s what you get back.
You get back what you give. The end. You should put as much work and effort into your relationship as you do your job. You should put as much work into the relationship with your spouse as you put into the relationships you have with your children. You should work at your relationship every single day. You should aim to be on point and on the ball every day with your relationship. (The best that you can anyhow). Yep, even if you’re tired. Yep, even if you’re stressed. Your partner doesn’t owe you anything. You both have to earn it. You have to work to earn each other’s love every day. Love is only free to our kids. Your spouse met you and fell in love with you because of how you made them feel. Keep making your spouse feel that way! Appreciate each other. You’re there for each other because you chose to be. Appreciate that your partner chose to be there. You chose each other.
You earn your spouse’s time and commitment by putting in the work. If both sides put in the work, then both deserve it. Nobody owes you anything.
Also, pay attention to when your spouse is having a hard time and step it up! You’re partners for a reason. You need to back each other up when things get hard. When you see your spouse struggling is when you need to step it up. You can carry the slack that week. That way when you’re struggling your spouse can do the same for you.
Support each other. Have each other’s back. You’re on the same team!
Are you having the same fight over and over again?
If you continue to fight about the same things repeatedly and never seem to get anywhere, then you need to get counseling. Some couples have gone so far down the worm hole that you need professional help to get back on track. There are real tools that couples therapists use that work. Did you get therapy and still no luck? You may need to move on. Of course, you need to have given it a real shot and not just a few sessions. You have to be committed. It won’t happen overnight.
It may not keep you together. If it doesn’t keep you together, then get counseling on your own. Go by yourself and figure out what you could have done better. Figure out what kind of work you need to do on yourself, so you don’t find yourself back in the same boat.
That’s what I did anyhow. I went to counseling for about 6 months when I left my ex. We tried couples counseling and it simply didn’t work for us. It didn’t work because we both had no business being married to anyone until we figured our shit out. You know what happened? I figured my shit out.
I realized what I needed to improve upon in myself and I did the work. Four years later I met the love of my life.
Have you ever heard of the seven-year itch? You know… you’re with the same person and if after seven years you’re still fighting about the same stuff, and nothing has gotten resolved, it probably never will? Some simply just don’t have it in them to do it anymore. Seven years seems to be the magical number for when people tend to call it quits. It was for me.
Of course, I’m not saying you should call it quits and get a divorce. I’m saying that you aren’t alone and there’s a reason it’s called the seven-year itch.
Also, you might have to face the hard truth that you married someone that is incapable of intimacy. When someone is incapable of intimacy there’s not much you can do about it. You can hope to convince that person that they have a huge guard up and get them to agree to therapy. See if they are able to be real with you. You hope like hell they can, but you have to realize it’s not your fight. You can’t make someone put their guard down. They have to want it. If you’re with someone incapable of intimacy, then I really feel for you. I’ve been there myself and it’s the most frustrating and heart-breaking feeling. It’s the worst to learn that you’re with someone that will never let you in, and who you will never truly know on the inside. Think you might be with someone who is emotionally unavailable?
If you’re with someone who is incapable of intimacy, then your relationship will not grow. I’ve said it before…
Healthy Conflict Resolution = Intimacy
Intimacy = Happy Couple!
Thanks for reading my rant today. While these are of course my opinions I truly believe what I say.
I’ve come a very long way from where I started and I simply like to share what I feel I’ve learned that helped make my life better. Even if you read one thing in this post that helps then that’s wonderful.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful weekend!
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