Normal. It’s normal for couples to fight. It’s normal to take a disagreement from one level to the next. All couples have that sassy side – the one that raises their voice, that brings up the past, that gets dramatic, that wants to hurt and strangely enjoys being hurt.
But all couples do that. It’s normal . . . right?
So I’m suggesting something. Perhaps it’s crazy. Can we define a new normal?
Can we make fighting in marriage abnormal?
What I’m Not Saying . . .
I’m not saying that couples should never have differing opinions. Disagreeing is healthy! I think it is necessary in all meaningful relationships. If you are really connecting, there will be disagreements. Otherwise somebody is faking it.
When your spouse gets the real you, differences of opinion come out. Good news is, that’s why you married them! You need the other’s ideas and experiences to complement you. When you’re talking about difficult topics, remember that you need the different eyes and ears your spouse brings to the marriage.
Here’s What I’m Saying . . .
Immature and mean should not be the norm.
Ben and I talk all the time about what “normal” or “typical” fights do to the other.
They create wounds that are difficult to heal.
They provide hateful words the other remembers at times of insecurity.
They build walls to keep us from being vulnerable.
Here are the four worst behaviors you can have in your disagreements:
Criticism fuels the argument with blaming or attacking the other’s character.
Contempt communicates disrespect and a superior air. (And has health consequences)
Defensiveness avoids responsibility for the problem and gets in the way of a team approach.
Stonewalling attempts to withdraw from the conflict, but instead escalates the other further into the argument.
These are what Dr. John Gottman calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” – the four predictors of divorce (that give him 94% accuracy). Don’t let these bad behaviors become normal in your marriage. Watch below as Dr. Gottman shares about the importance of treating your spouse well and repairing arguments and hurt feelings:
Hurt feelings are inevitable. Conflict is inevitable. But you can take the “normal” way of fighting and exchange it for tender and patient disagreements with your best friend.
Here’s How To Do It
We don’t always succeed, but because we redefined normal behavior for our marriage, it makes it a lot easier to keep arguments under control.
Here are some ways to define a new normal in your marriage:
- Keep your voice calm and gentle.
- Take time to listen and exchange ideas. Instead of suppressing concerns, voice your thoughts in a helpful way. But you must give your spouse a chance to be heard as well.
- Take a team approach to solving the problem, never aiming to manipulate or hurt the other’s feelings.
- Stay on topic. Don’t bring up the past or attack the person.
- Say sorry every time you say something mean, selfish, or disrespectful.
- Build your friendship and marital intimacy. When disagreements come, you won’t want to rip the other apart because of your connection.
Anytime I raise my voice or throw a fit, I feel incredibly guilty because that’s not normal in our marriage. When we exchange harsh words, we quickly feel the need to apologize, because that’s not normal. It’s only normal if you allow it. Normal is what you make it. Redefine normal in your marriage, and you will never regret it.
Check out Dr. John Gottman’s many books on Amazon to learn more about his research. Use this affiliate link to buy his books, and you can support Real Married Life with your purchase. Thank you!
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