Navigating Disagreements In Marriage (Episode 237)
How do you handle conflict and disagreement in your home? As we dig into our most intimate relationship this month, we have to address the biggie - it takes two people in a relationship. And with those two people come two minds, two perspectives, two stews of complex emotions, two of...figuring everything out.
I don't know about you, but I don't always know for sure what I want personally, much less am able to identify it in Nathan. And we are opposites in a lot of ways. How do we handle things when we don't see eye to eye?
Disagreements are a part of life, and any relationship without any is most likely staying on a pretty surface level. Disagreements, however, are different than arguing and fighting. I can welcome a disagreement without ever inviting the tension of an all-out fight.
Pick your battles.
You don’t have to show up to every argument you’re invited to.
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It Starts With You
If you listened to last week's episode, you know the first and foremost focus on your most intimate relationship is your willingness to simply show up for yourself and take full responsibility for all you create. Coming into a relationship means two minds collaborating together - not hitting up against each other. And in order to collaborate, you have to be willing to steer your own ship.
Yes, if you want a beautiful intimate relationship, start with your own personal responsibility and what YOU are willing to bring to the relationship and show up for.
We welcome disagreements in our home because there is a mental shift. It's not a feeling of fear that we've failed or we've gotten something wrong. It's a mental shift of, "what can I learn here"? I'm not looking at a disagreement as a way to divide as much as it is an opportunity for me to learn something new about the person I love most in this world.
Pay attention to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse - criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stone-walling - are what relationship expert John Gottman says can destroy a relationship. What are you taking responsibility for? Are you looking in the mirror first and assessing how you can be the person you want them to be - and the parent you want your children to see?
The Gottman institute has researched the Effects of Marital Discord on Young Children's Peer Interaction and Health (here is an easier read) - their research showed they could determine if parents argued by measuring the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in their children’s urine. Not only that, they found that children as young as 3 months old experienced higher blood pressure when their parents argued in front of them.
What if you threw out these four things from your relationship?
No more criticism, recognizing my goal to build my partner up and celebrate them in their best light.
No more defensiveness, because I own my actions and am willing to grow and try again.
No more contempt, because I understand we are both human and I don't get it straight all time, either.
And definitely no stone-walling, because as I'm figuring out my own complex mind, I cannot expect anyone else to know it better - they have their own to navigate as well!
Keep this in mind -
My defensiveness in our relationship was - to get to the bottom line - a waste of my breath. Instead of defending WHY I think this way, why not learn what I'm thinking so we can move forward together?
Criticism is just one voice in a bigger orchestra of opinion. So how can you look at it from a more broad picture to just explore this? It's owning, "here is the reaction I have boiling up in me" (aka something within your control) vs. "here we are again - look what you always do" (aka something that is someone else's issue).
Think about what your goal is.
Not sure what your triggers are?
Get the Namaste Snapshot - a personality assessment that opens the door to self-awareness and reflection
What is Your Goal
And, before you even have this conversation, go back to this key focus: “What is my goal?” Is it to really get honest with yourself? To reach out in love? To make your marriage work...or are you throwing in the towel? What is the goal of the conversation? Do you truly want to get to the root of it? Sometimes that means navigating uncomfortable places, so it’s critical to be clear on why you’re going there.
There is a whole shift in the playing field when you go from two people with the goal of proving their point or convincing the other to the common ground of “let’s work together to make this marriage flow in a way where we both thrive.”
We Can Be Thrown
We're human. Go back to my interview with Elyssa Smith on getting out of survival mode. We can be thrown into it simply by one potty time meltdown!
When shit hits the fan, it's the same as a life-or-death situation. First, assess the situation. Second, assign roles. And third, act. In our world, we come back afterward and look at what went right, what we could have done differently, what we're grateful for, and what we learned.
When you go back afterward and discuss what you've learned, you pave the way not only for growth, but the opportunity to reinforce what makes you feel best. And ultimately, your partner is going to want the best out of you. Relationships can thrive when there are two people experiencing and celebrating life together, not just dragging one another along.
This is moving in a supportive role together vs. this dichotomous "waiting" for the other to show up. The more you build up resentment/frustration about an issue, waiting for the other person to do something, the greater the divide between you two. Clearly communicate what is going on. Share what you're experiencing real-time so you have a plan and are prepared. Face into them together as a team.
Know your Emotional Vocabulary
In the podcast episode above, I share about the absolutely life-changing book I read last month, Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown. Sometimes those frustrating feelings we feel toward our loved ones are way more of a reflection on what is going on within vs. it being an external issue.
For example, if I'm frustrated at Nathan for relaxing in the sun and playing his ukulele, I have to look at the reality of this. Is it wrong that he's sitting outside and enjoying a moment? No. The issue isn't Nathan enjoying his time; it's me not enjoying my time to rest. My resentment and frustration was due to how little space I was making for myself to relax and recharge; not that he was doing it.
Get clear on the feelings you're feeling, and own what is truly reflected due to someone else, or what might be rooted back to something entirely within your control. I can sit around and build resentment and frustration that Nathan is enjoying the sunshine and taking a break, or I can check those feelings at the door along with my ongoing to-do list, and take a break in the sunshine with him.
Assigning Roles = Teamwork
It's not about throwing a role at someone and saying, "deal with it." We're picking up each other's slack. We're looking at roles as a team, and supporting one another in it. If the overarching theme is, "we are a team", there are definitely times we pick up the slack for the other person.
You both have to play. You can't just have one player playing. Instead of criticizing and getting frustrated, how can you approach this as a team? Sometimes it's jumping in and helping each other out. Sometimes, it's clearly stating how important it is to you and why, and what you need for support.
Don't assume anything. Ask. Don't mind read. Work together, and if you don't feel that you're working together, that's your responsibility to talk about it. If it's not addressed, it won't course-correct on its own, typically.
At the end of the day, if you aren't honest with yourself and your spouse and express what you're feeling, you have no right to get frustrated when those feelings don't go away or increase. You can write stories all day long - however, is it your story to write? Are you truly the author and owner of it, or are you focused on something outside of your control? What are you taking ownership of?
Quick Tips For Hot Topics:
- Give space for each other to think and process.
- Take the accountability off of each other and put it in writing. Write out your plans and your goals so you can look to that paper for the accountability vs. your spouse looming over your shoulder shaking their finger.
- With Finances – come to an agreement on what is mutually beneficial for the family as whole. Does what you spend ADD to the family, or is it one more thing adding tension/clutter?
- Extended family – you have to draw the line – you are not duplicating your family of origin. You are creating a new family entity. You may draw from the past, but not to the detriment of what is. Your family will be different, and that’s okay.
- Give yourselves grace to practice. You aren’t going to get it right all the time. Allow for grace in your growth – as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
Your Weekly Challenge:
There is a gentle kindness when you truly are focused on joining together as a team.
So again -
- Get clear on your desires.
- Know yourself - and own it - what you feel, not what they did.
- Lose the badge - don't pick up a badge of a martyr.
- Dummy proof it - clearly know your roles, and support each other in them.
- Don't assume. Ask. No mind reading.
Pay attention to this most important relationship for the joy and love it should bring. Look at it not as your fulfillment as much as the synergy that allows you to go out into the world even better because of the addition that your relationship brings to who you are.
Look at today as your clean slate to make it happen. Get honest and true with who you are right now, and who you want to be. Get curious about your partner and let them share with you who they are and who they want to be. If either of you aren't sure where to start, start with this free download on connections, and see if that helps shed some light. Then create a plan - together - to celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.
- Discuss, But Never Argue
- Tension Points That Cause Couples To Argue
- Connected…or Codependent? (Episode 196)
- Perspectives on Attraction (Episode 223)
- Recipe for a Light-Hearted Relationship: Part 1 – Triggers (Episode 219)
- Dealing With “Prickly” People and Toxicity (Episode 209)
- Welcome to the Fight Club - Choose Wisely (Episode 34)
- Fighting Toward a Win-Win (Episode 9)
- My Marriage is Slipping Away From Me (Episode 187)
- When the "Same Ole Marriage" Isn't Working Anymore (Episode 153)
- The Ride Is Long for a Backseat Marriage (Episode 114)
- Will My Marriage Last? Insights from John Gottman (Episode 113)
- Get Out of Survival Mode with these Three Steps (Episode 234)
- What is your goal? Or maybe that is the wrong question to be asking
- 37 Essential Tips To Save Your Marriage
- The Burden of Overwhelm – Moving Forward While Always Feeling Behind
- 5 Tips To Focus For Frazzled Families (Episode 160)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Ashley Logsdon, Relationship Coach
- Personality Styles
Questions or comments?
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Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, entrepreneurship, minimalism, travel...
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