By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S
This May we will be celebrating our 30th year anniversary. We had 5 children and 2 are married and one is about to get married. Our married children often share with us the issues they struggle with. We laugh and think; “We haven’t fought about those things in years”. This is because over time, we have learned some valuable lessons to de-escalate an argument, to create endearing moments, and to not let things get under our skin. Below are some of our personal rules for things you shouldn’t say to your spouse.
Don’t criticize with mean words you know will get a rise out of your partner. This seems to be a favorite of newly weds when first learning to fight. You don’t know what to say, you are hurt, and you think of the one thing you know will make them hurt, “you are fat”, “you are lazy”, “you are a liar”. These digs and insults come out every fight and cause division, resentment and can seriously damage self-esteem. This is the person you chose over everyone else, treat them with respect and leave off the 4th grade insults.
Stay away from absolutes (Always & Never). When you are fighting, and you say; “you always” or “you never”, you are stating an absolute that is rarely even possible. Telling your spouse “you never support me” or “you are always dramatic” states that they have never or always do that one thing. When in fact there are times they are supportive or not dramatic, we just focus on the negative. These statements negate all the good things done and makes for a difficult hole to get out of. Try stating something like; “I feel unsupported sometimes” or “today you seem to be fighting some difficult emotions, how can I help”
Try not to blame your partner. Blaming your partner puts them on the defensive and makes them feel horrible. When someone feels horrible it is hard to admit to wrong doing or even want to change. Stating things such as; “Why didn’t you pay that bill, or Why didn’t you clean the house” is judgmental and lacking in support. Try saying things with “I” statements such as; “I feel worried when a bill isn’t paid on time” or “I get concerned when the house isn’t as clean as you usually have it, are you ok?”
What ever you do, don’t involve your in-laws in your fights. Of course, mom and dad have good advice but for your spouse, not you. They want to kick their butt or give them a word or two. This does no good for your battles. You want to figure things out between the two of you without input from the peanut gallery. It will ruin future communication if one of you is afraid of getting tattled on to a parent and respect will be lost.
Don’t threaten to withhold love, sex, money or time. Giving threats is stating you have run out of proper communication skills to work out the issues. Talking things through and coming up with appropriate compromises is essential. If the argument isn’t settled, agree to disagree for this moment in time and decide to pick up conversation later to see if you can’t make progress on compromise.