3 Ways To Stop Arguing In Marriage That Work Almost Like Magic
Does it seem like you cannot even have a conversation without it turning into an argument?
Or maybe you are in one of those relationships where you can’t even be in the same room together without aruging about something.
If I asked you, “Why do you think couples fight?” you might respond with common things couples fight about. Things like money, sex, kids and so on. And those things might be the context for arguments in a relationship, but they are not the real cause.
Most of the advice around the issue of arguments in a relationship will talk about common causes of arguments between couples such as not listening, saying the wrong thing, and thoughtlessness. 1
If you argue a lot in your relationship, you might agree that those are common causes of arguments. You might be thinking, “That’s right, he or she never listens, and when I bring it up they always say the wrong thing because they are thoughtless and don’t care about my needs.”
That may be true, but you might be suprised to learn that those things get to the root of the problem either… That is why most of the advice being given about how to stop arguing doesn’t work.
But in the next few minutes I am going to tell what does.
It works so well that I’ll you to take what you learn today and implemented the next time an argument flares up in your relationship and then I want to come back here tell us about the results.
Psychologist agree that the number one cause of arguments and fights is a lack of mutual empathy and understanding. And that is a huge part of it. Empathy is the ability to understand how they feel and where they’re coming from. But there is something else going on when people argue that makes it so much worse.
We all do it and it drives every argument. It is what causes silly things to turn into big fights. This happens when we make assumptions about how the other person feels, or where they are coming from.
It is one thing to lack empathy, the real problem happens when we make assumptions about people’s motives or question their intent.
Try and think of an argument you had with your partner or spouse that was not made worse by statements or accusations that made assumptions about someone’s motives or questioned their intent.
Example From Our Relationship
Here is an example from my own marriage where I was guilty of making assumptions and questioning Kayti’s intent. This is a good example of a situation that should never have ended up in an argument or hurt feelings.
I am aware that my wife Kayti likes for the house to be picked up and everything in its place. She does not like it when things are just strewn about all over the place. I know that.
Well, one evening Kayti was upstairs all evening lying down because of back pain. She had recently had her 4th back surgery.
I had been downstairs watching the kids and making their dinner. The house is an absolute disaster. They have dumped out all the toys on the floor and Legos and dishes are piled all over the counter in the kitchen.
While I was serving the macaroni and cheese, there was another crisis with the baby, and so I spilled some on the stove and counter, and I didn’t have a chance to clean it up yet.
Right in the middle of this tsunami of Cannon children, Kayti comes downstairs, and with “why can’t you do anything right ” judgmental look on her face.
With the stern methodical efficiency of an Army General, Kayti immediately took charge commanding the children to pick up their toys. They jump into action. (That irritates me because I’d already told them five times without response.) She still hadn’t said a word to me as just started cleaning up the kitchen.
And so get this.
My wife has just single-handedly helped me get control of a situation that was spiraling downward, and instead of saying thank you, the first words out of my mouth come with an angry tone, “Seriously Kayti? I was going to clean this up. What did you think? I was just going to leave it like this. Of course, you had to come down here and get mad at me…”
Wait, What? She had not said a word to me yet.
Well… she had a few words to say now.
“I’m going back upstairs. You can sleep down here.”
Now I’m thinking, “What just happened?”
What just happened was I made assumptions about what she was thinking, how she was feeling, and why she was doing what she was doing. I questioned her intent.
When you question someone’s intentions it causes them to get defensive. And the moment someone gets defensive, communication shuts down. They are no longer hearing anything that you say.
You see I made it all about me and I assumed that she was mad. I interpreted her swift stern response and lack of words to mean she mad and judging me for not being able to handle the situation.
I made up in my mind that she was angry with me and thinking “if he could simply do his job I wouldn’t have to come down here and do this when I’m already in so much pain from my back.”
The thing is she didn’t say that. It was all in my own mind.
Think about some of the arguments that you have had with your spouse?
Think about the moment that it the argument escalated to the point where no one was listening to the other and both were mad? What were you thinking? What was said on both sides?
There’s a goodchance it involved assumptions about the other person’s feelings, motives or intentions.
Okay so, taking what we’ve learned so far, let’s talk about some ways that we could use this understanding to avoid or stop arguing in your relationship or marriage.
Here are 3 Ways To Avoid or Stop Arguments in Your Relationship
1) Stop Making Assumptions
Have you heard the phrase, “When you assume you make an ass out of you and me.”
I told myself I wasn’t going to use that, but I couldn’t help it. Because it’s just so true.
When we talk about questioning someone’s motives or making assumptions about why they did something, some relationship coaches will tell you to always assume a positive intent.
They say that you should just assume there’s a positive reason for the behavior. That is good advice, but here’s the problem. That will often work but it doesn’t work in all situations.
That advice doesn’t work when your spouse or partner has done something particularly hurtful.
I’m talking about situations where you can’t imagine any possible way that their behavior could have been done with positive intent toward you.
What you do then?
In a situation, when there’s no possible way what they did could’ve been done with positive intent, you first need to acknowledged that the reason for their behavior may have nothing to do with you at all. Like my wife always says to me, “not everything is about you.” I know shocking right. Secondly, it’s important to realize that there may be factors impacting their behavior that you know nothing about.
For example, when my wife came down she had a look on her face that I interpreted as mad or irritated. The truth is she was just in a lot of pain from her back.
And so it’s important to try and reserve judgment until you have more information.
Now, I know that’s hard especially when you’ve been hurt or feel disrespected.
But if you don’t do that, if you don’t hold off on judgment until you have more information you may never get to the real reason. More importantly, you may never make the connection that you really want and stop the cycle of arguments.
When we question someone’s intent by making accusations about their motives it makes them become defensive.
Like we talked about earlier, the moment someone gets defensive communication shuts down and they no longer hear anything you have to say. And that’s true regardless of their actual intent or motives. It’s just human nature.
Unfortunately, when you make these types of accusations and they get defensive, communication shuts down and the argument escalates.
And even though their defensiveness has nothing to do with whether you are right or wrong about their motives, you will be tempted to interpret the escalation as proof that you are right. And that is just going to cause more problems.
And so the first thing is to either assume positive intent, but if you can’t imagine positive intent because of the hurtful nature of their behavior, at least try not to make any assumptions at all. You’re going to need more information and will talk about that just moment.
2) Establish Rapport
I know what you’re thinking. Establish rapport?
What are you talking about?
Isn’t that something you do when meeting new people or new potential clients?
Let me explain… because when you do this right, the benefits go well beyond not just arguing. When you can establish and maintain rapport with your spouse or partner, it will a positive impact on your relationship in many ways. It can help revive the love and passion in your marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, rapport is something that must be continually established and maintained.
Rapport happens when we connect with people through mutual understanding of one another on some level. Rapport is being established when people are “in sync” with each other.
Earlier we talked about how the cause of most arguments can be tied to a lack of mutual empathy?
And remember, empathy is the ability to recognize and understand where someone else is coming from and how they feel.
Empathy helps us to establish rapport or connection with another person because it makes them feel like they’re being heard.
You don’t always have to understand the other person completely. You won’t be able to anyway. They just need to feel like you care enough to hear them. And if you can learn to do that effectively, anger and animosity will generally just fizzle out.
Have you ever had a big fight with someone that got pretty bad, but eventually when it was all over, you were both sitting there feeling connected and on the same page enough to look beyond the details?
Maybe when you got to that point, one of you apologized and said something like, “I’m sorry. I was out of line and inconsiderate.” And immediately, the other person responded with something similar saying, “No, it’s really my fault. I should never have put you in that position …”
We see that all the time. Have you ever wondered what just happened?
This happens when people finally come come in-sync (or establish rapport) with one another through a sense of mutual empathy.
I’m sure this is happened to you at least once or twice. What if there was a shortcut they could get you there faster and without all of the contention in between?
In The Shmily Effect and our Marriage Reset Intensive program, we teach strategies that you can implement which will help you to establish and maintain rapport more quickly so that you can come in sync with one another and get past the cycle of arguments.
And because we know that you may be the only one trying to improve your relationship the strategies we teach for establishing rapport in a relationship go beyond just using words. They say that 90% of our communication is nonverbal. We teach strategies to achieve rapport using body language and other nonverbal communication.
These strategies can guide the conversation to that mutual sense of connection and understanding much faster. And the other person won’t even know you were intentional about making that happen.
3) Closest Obvious But Minimal Truth
The concept that we developed for diffusing arguments in a number of situations. Have you ever heard the phrase “on a need to know basis.” It’s kind of like that.
Remember that people want to be heard. They want to feel like they are understood. Think about the situation we talked about earlier. I started the fight and caused hard feelings because I made assumptions about why my wife was helping clean up. I questioned her motives. That made her get angry and defensive and she lashed back.
Using concept of the closest obvious but minimal truth, instead of making negative assumptions about her motives without all of the information,
I could have assumed she had a positive intent,or that her response had nothing to do with me and that she was simply picking up because the house was messy.
That’s the closest obvious but minimal response.
Why was she picking up? Because it was messy.
OK. Now let’s look at it from Kayti’s perspective. Remember, I started the argument when I said,
“Seriously Kayti? I was going to clean this up. What did you think…? I was just going to leave it like this?”
That made her mad and defensive. And she had a right to be. It was rude and disrespectful on my part.
But let’s say that she had wanted to avoid an argument and instead focus on building rapport to diffuse my bad attitude.
She could have simply said the closest obvious but minimal truth, and said,
“Oh no, I knew you had it under control. I just thought you might like some help.”
Now, we say minimal truth because although that was probably true, there is also a good chance that she was irritated by the mess and did see the possibility that I would come up to bed without cleaning it all up.
(I admit I’ve done it before.)
But that didn’t need to be said. It would not of made a difference and it would have only caused me to get more defensive and angry myself.
If the closest obvious minimal truth didn’t defuse the situation,
the next step would have been for Kayti to ask me some questions to try and get a better understanding of how I was feeling and why I was angry.
In any situation where the other party is angry, we have found the response most likely to establish an empathetic connection is to ask questions.
Because remember, people want to feel heard. When they feel heard it leads to a sense of connection, rapport, and mtual empathy.
In the example I gave earlier, Kayti could have said, “Why did my helping you clean up make you feel that way? If I’ve made you feel like I was judging you or something in the past, I want to make sure I don’t do that again .”
Now, you may feel like you should not be the one backing down or taking an apologetic stance, because you might not think you did anything wrong. Just like Kayti did nothing wrong. She didn’t say anything to justify my snapping at her like I did.
Here’s the thing.
Someone has to take charge of your relationship. If things are going to change, then someone has to lead and guide your relationship out of this negative state.
If you don’t do it who will?
Rest assured, these strategies will not make you a doormat.
It’s actually the opposite.
These strategies and most of the strategies we teach in The Shmily Effect are based on the concept of intentionally redirecting negative energy and then guiding it to a better place.
If you follow these strategies, it will usually create empathy on both sides. And in the end, your spouse or partner who was the angry one is more likely to begin to see the situation for how it really was and apologize.