Relationships

Most arguments not worth it

Do you really want to put your marriage on the line over whether to eat Chinese or Mexican?

Special to The TribuneJanuary 21, 2014 

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Couples can argue over the silliest topics. Should we eat dinner at a Chinese or Mexican restaurant? Should we use three eggs in the omelet or four?

No issue is too minor to ignite a firestorm. Yet some spouses repeatedly find themselves embroiled in petty standoffs that bring them to the brink of divorce.

One reason is that subjects can be imbued with meaning far beyond their present form. For instance, a wife may accuse her husband of being controlling, even though he’s merely suggesting they ask friends to golf with them on the weekend.

These underlying sentiments dredge up irrelevant-yet-painful feelings that contaminate the here and now. They dump a trash truck full of emotional garbage onto the relationship, burying both parties in unneces sary pain and recriminations, meanwhile distracting them from the question at hand.

Often, the introduced issues are decades old. Most of them are inaccurate. Still, they’re perceptions of wrongdoing that folks store in their psychic attics then hurl at their partners whenever they disagree.

The result is that couples are perennially unhappy. They’re stuck in a state of anger and discontent. Nothing is ever settled between them. They’re embarrassed by their inability to communicate more effectively. Fortunately, couples can learn to avert these petty arguments. With patience, commitment and the proper know-how, they can address their problems like pros.

HOW TO AVOID PETTY ARGUMENTS

• Keep it mellow. Don’t take things too seriously. Lighthearted is always better than intense. Very few problems merit anger or irritation. Your calm invites your partner to be the same.

• Identify the topic. Decide together what needs to be resolved. Are you planning a vacation? Visiting your in-laws? Buying new tires for the Volvo? Agree where to put your energies so you won’t get distracted.

• Be pleasant. There’s never a time when foul language or putdowns are appropriate. Harsh words usually send a conversation into an immediate tailspin. Choose your words and tone carefully. The outcome depends on it.

• Work together. You and your partner are allies. Your goals are exactly the same. You both want a pleasant, successful relationship. Treat each other like the teammates you are.

• Stay in the present. Don’t bring up past issues. Your partner can’t do anything about what’s already happened. And your behavior prevents you from resolving anything now.

• Use humor. Levity is a wonderful way to defuse tension yet express your underlying needs. If I’m feeling neglected by my husband, a sweet, playful, “Hey, get over here and give me a hug!” lets him know what I want without causing a scene.

• Be positive. You’re dealing with your partner, the one you selected to be your lifelong mate. Remind yourself of this fact often. The appropriate behavior and words will follow.

• Be willing to give in. Sometimes it’s best to concede, to do things the way your spouse wants. Your actions don’t signify weakness. They mean your marriage is more important than a fight. The quicker one or both partners back down, the more harmony there is at home.

• Step away from an argument. If tensions mount and your conversation begins to sour, consider taking a break. Politely state, “This is getting out of control. Let’s talk more when we’re calmer.” Then leave the room. Try again at a later date.

• Try different solutions. There are multiple answers to each of your problems. Sometimes you have to look further to find them. Be creative. Consider one strategy, then replace it with another. Whatever you do, hang in there. Your marriage is at stake.

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