3 Steps to Better Arguments (so you can find better solutions!)
Honestly, I don’t even remember what Eric and I were fighting about. It could have been lots of different things (see my last post). All I remember is that we had fought about this same things before. We knew this dance really well.
I would bring up whatever I was frustrated/concerned/angry about, in what I thought was a really gentle way, he would get defensive and tell me all the reasons why I was wrong and then he would say that he would try to do better. But nothing ever really changed. We would stay there. Stuck in the same problems. With no solutions in sight. Just always doing this same dance. On every issue. Forever.
I remember looking at him in the middle of another one of these arguments and felt so alone. I didn’t understand him and I knew that he didn’t understand me. And I had no idea how to fix it.
So today I wanted to share with you what helped Eric and I get out of that hole and start having conversations that are more meaningful and productive.
Commit to honesty
This is harder than it sounds. When you commit to honesty, you commit to saying things that might sound mean or hurtful, and be willing to hear the same from him. It means that you commit to sharing with your spouse all of your thoughts and feelings, and hearing his while withholding judgement.
It also means that you are committing to be honest with yourself. It means that you are committing to looking at your motives behind the complaint and owning it.
For example, maybe the complaint is that your husband never does the dishes. 100% honesty would take a minute to really look at the complaint. Does he really NEVER do the dishes? When exactly was the last time you remember him doing the dishes? Has he ever said that he isn’t willing to do the dishes?
Then look at your motives. Why is it a problem if he only does the dishes sometimes? Why would that feel better? What need are you looking to him to fill? Maybe you are really just feeling overwhelmed with the household tasks and the solution you see is that he could help do the dishes.
Getting really honest and owning our own motives helps us get out of the drama of the issue. We can start having a conversation without blame or criticism, it becomes a problem that we can solve together instead of a character flaw.
Avoid the Ambush
Oh man, I am a master at the Ambush.
I would spend weeks or even months silently dwelling on an issue, all the while trying to convince myself that it wasn’t a big deal and that I just needed to toughen up. Then out of the blue, one night after the kids were in bed, Eric would do some tiny thing that set me off and BAM! All of those months of frustration come out in one angry, tear-soaked conversation that he never saw coming.
He was so stunned that he didn’t even have time to get in a word let alone find constructive solutions to the problem. So he would just sit there in silence trying to make sense of what was happening. Poor guy.
Learn from my mistakes. Avoid the Ambush. It leads nowhere.
Instead, make an appointment.
If there is an issue that is bothering you, commit to honesty and tell him about it before it turns into a massive problem. Then make an appointment. This looks something like this:
“Hey. I have something that I’d like to talk to you about when the kids are in bed. Can we do that tonight or would tomorrow be better for you?”
This gives you both some time to emotionally prepare yourselves for the conversation. You are planning a time and place that is most likely to lead to success. And you are showing from the very beginning that you are valuing his opinions and experience of the conversation by getting his input.
Specify ONE problem
Now that you are committed to honesty and you have set an appointment, let’s talk about the actual conversation.
We tend to start piling up problems when we have conversations where emotions are running hot. It can look something like this:
“Why can’t you help out with the dishes more?”
“Well I might help out more if you stopped nagging me.”
“Well, I would probably stop nagging if you would act like you listened to me once in a while.”
“Well, I am really tired by the end of the day! Why can’t you appreciate all the work that I do for our family? I deserve some downtime!”
See now instead of one problem, we have six.
-You are overwhelmed with household tasks
-He doesn’t help with the dishes
-You nag him
-He doesn’t listen when you talk
-He’s tired and not getting enough sleep
-He feels like you don’t appreciate him.
One problem can be solved in a conversation pretty easily. Six, not so much. We end up overwhelming ourselves with all the problems that we are facing, think that it is hopeless and that we are just going to stay stuck like this forever and just give up.
So pick ONE problem and each take turns expressing your thoughts and feelings about it and then brainstorm together possible solutions. Commit to only talking about that one issue. Set that expectation at the beginning of the conversation.
All it takes to create meaningful conversations is to start implementing these three strategies consistently. And you wills tart finding solutions to any problem that comes up in your marriage and family. It’s the magic formula.
That being said, old habits die hard. It can be really tricky to change the patterns that we have been entrenched in for years. That is why I offer one on one coaching where I can help you create new habits and patterns that will last for the rest of your life. I can help you see your blindspots as you implement these strategies so that you start getting to solutions quicker and easier. If you would like to know more about working with me, please set up a consult call where we can come up with a plan to help you get there, even if we decide that working together isn’t the best options for your right now.
Click the button below to set up the call and we will get started together.