9 Practical Ways to Stop Arguing with Your Spouse

Arguments With Your Spouse

Are you and your spouse constantly bickering or having frequent blowups that create stress and unhappiness? Do you go round in round in what seems like the same argument without finding a resolution or understanding?

All spouses argue. In fact, healthy disagreements can strengthen the bond you share with your spouse and even deepen your emotional connection. However, marriage researchers have determined that certain types of arguing and communication behaviors—such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling—can be relationship destroyers.

Allowing your spouse’s feelings and needs to be considered in your decision-making and finding common ground allows you to both feel satisfied. Click To Tweet

The good news is, there are a number of practical strategies you can adopt that help

facilitate a more positive, warm, loving relationship with your spouse. These healthy habits will enable you to address differences and conflict without resorting to destructive combat.

9 Practical Ways to Diffuse Arguments With Your Spouse

1. Use “I” Statements

Leading with criticism is a surefire way to put your spouse on the defensive and decrease their willingness to engage in a meaningful discussion. Instead of blaming and pointing the finger at their behavior with “you” statements, use “I” statements and share how you are feeling, your perspective, and what you are needing.

Research shows that using “I” statements minimizes hostility and defensiveness—and leaves things open for discussion. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” say “I’m feeling unheard when I communicate with you.”

2. Be Respectful

To maintain emotional safety within our marriage, it’s critical to always be respectful, especially during an argument. It will keep things from escalating and improve your chances of resolving your conflict and repairing it. Respect is a foundational ingredient in healthy adult relationships. It is the opposite of contempt. You can feel angry, disagree, and even dislike your partner and still treat them with respect.

3. When Things Get Heated, Pause

When an argument spontaneously erupts and your emotions start running high, take a break until you gain composure and can discuss an issue with more equanimity. If you start raising your voice, that’s a good indicator it is time to step away. Emotional dysregulation fuels arguments.

A confrontation or argument can trigger your stress response, sending you into fight or flight mode. When that happens, all bets are off in terms of working out a disagreement. Let your spouse know you need to step away to calm down and become more rational. You may need to take 10 or 20 minutes or more. It’s possible you’ll have to table the conversation for the rest of the day.

Taking time to think allows your body to settle down. Think about what your partner shared and see if you get some perspective on what’s really going on within you. Oftentimes an argument is about something deeper.

4. Put the Brakes on Negative Communication

Avoid the negative patterns of contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling—or else you’re headed for doom. If you start using sarcasm or mean-spirited, cruel language, your spouse will likely feel belittled. Take it as an indicator that you need to go inside and figure out what is upsetting you. If you find yourself getting defensive and starting to justify yourself, your spouse will likely feel attacked, and an argument will probably escalate. Ask yourself why are you feeling defensive. If you feel compelled to shut down the conversation or leave the room, you may be stonewalling your partner to avoid conflict or hearing what they have to say. Instead of continuing with these destructive communication behaviors, pause and take a deep breath, maybe two. Choose a kinder, more respectful, and more constructive way to listen or communicate.

5. Have Empathy

Listen intently to what your spouse is saying and put yourself in their shoes. Try to gain perspective and understand their point of view. Empathy will often halt an argument because it changes its direction. You can’t argue when you get outside of yourself to understand your spouse’s distress.

At first, you may need to practice empathy by reflecting back on what your partner said and checking that you understood them accurately. Take care to understand their unique experience. Saying the words “I understand” can go a long way in promoting goodwill between you and your spouse.

6. Consider They May Be Right

Rather than combatting your spouse, take a different tack. Using the words “you may be right” can soften your spouse and even allow them to back off a bit. It takes listening to the next level as it signals you are willing to consider and be influenced by their perspective. Allowing your spouse’s feelings and needs to be considered in your decision-making and finding common ground allows you to both feel satisfied. It’s also a necessary ingredient in happy marriages, according to a study that followed 130 couples. The study found that when husbands could share power with their wives, by accepting some of their demands, it was critical for resolving conflict.

7. Own Your Part

When there’s a conflict with your spouse, take responsibility and look for the part you played in it. It’s never all one person’s fault. You may need to step away for a moment in order to do this. The simple words “I’m sorry,” sincerely expressed, can immediately stop an argument from continuing. But it has to be honest and heartfelt.

It might look like, “I have been stressed and overly sensitive lately. I feel terrible about being so critical and talking to you that way. I’m really sorry for overreacting and snapping at you.”

8. Do Not Bring Up Past Grievances

If you want to ensure an argument escalates, start bringing up past grievances—especially the ones that your partner has already expressed regret over and apologized for. Research has shown that when there’s no forgiveness, unresolved conflicts spill over into future arguments and create an unhealthy cycle. Forgiveness means that you stop punishing your spouse for former trespasses. If you refrain from bringing up the past in a current disagreement, you’ll have a better chance of resolving the conflict.

9. Don’t Take Everything Personally

We all have automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), and sometimes they can wreak havoc in our relationships. Of the thousands of thoughts, we have every day, many of them are not accurate, especially the negative ones! ANTs will spin lies about your spouse and you believe them, often without even realizing it. It’s very easy to look at your spouse’s behavior and make it a personal affront.

Question the stories you tell yourself about what your spouse is saying or doing. Ask yourself if you are certain that it is 100% true. You may have it wrong. You can get bent out of shape and start an argument when, in reality, their behavior likely has nothing to do with you.

Underlying Conditions

Of course, there are a number of brain health issues that can fuel conflict in marriages, including unresolved trauma, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, and more. If you suspect a mental health condition is playing a role in your marital conflict, be sure to reach out to a professional.

Marital conflict and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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