In this article, I’m going to share with you several tips that will help you prevent and defuse arguments with your spouse. Let’s begin by talking about a few ways to prevent arguments with your spouse.
Later in the article, I’ll talk about what to do if you find yourself in a heated dispute with your partner, but these first few tips are designed to help you avoid getting into arguments in the first place.
Tip #1 – Pick Your Battles:
Humans are imperfect creatures, and your spouse is no exception. It’s inevitable that your partner is going to do or say certain t=hings that are going to irritate you… so it’s important to take a step back and really evaluate what’s worth fighting for.
Is it really a huge issue if your husband forgets to water the plants? Do you really need to get into a screaming match every time your wife leaves a few dirty dishes in the kitchen? At the end of the day, you need to decide what you can live with, and what’s worth battling for.
Tip #2 – Apply My “30-minute Rule”
One of the most effective methods that I teach to my coaching clients is what I call the “30 minute rule”. It’s a pretty simple concept, really… any time you have a complaint or an issue you want to raise with your spouse that may lead to an argument, wait at least 30 minutes before you broach the subject with your partner.
As simple and dumb as this may sound, you’d be amazed at how often it can prevent an argument from happening. Taking 30 minutes to think things over before bringing up a complaint or issue allows you to cool down, step back, and take a look at the bigger picture.
Sometimes you may realize that whatever it was you were upset about isn’t worth an argument, and other times it may just give you time to think about how you can discuss the topic with your partner in a civilized, non-confrontational manner.
Which brings me to my next point…
Tip #3 – Work Out A Plan In Advance:
If you use the “30 minute rule” that I just talked about — and I strongly recommend you do give it a try — then you’ll always have at least half an hour to think about what you’re going to say before you dive into a heated discussion with your spouse.
I always suggest deciding exactly what you’re going to say to your spouse in advance… if you and your spouse have serious problems with frequent arguing, then it may even be worthwhile to write down what you’re going to say.
If you stick to the script, you’ll help to avoid saying something that can turn a civilized discussion into a major argument. In addition to deciding in advance what you’re going to say, also think about what your ideal outcome would look like… what are you trying to achieve? How are you going to achieve it? You should enter any potential argument knowing the answers to each of these questions.
Tip #4 – Use The “3 Sentence Rule”:
When you’ve got something on your mind and you want to vent those frustrations to your spouse, limit yourself to a maximum of three sentences total.
This will ensure you don’t go on a rant that escalates the discussion as soon as it begins, and keeps you focused on the specific topic at hand. Let’s say, for example, that your spouse constantly makes excuses to avoid social gatherings with your family. Understandably, this might upset you, and you may want to bring the subject up with your partner.
Using the 3-sentence rule, you might say something like: “Look, I know you don’t really enjoy hanging out with my family, but they’re important to me. I’d really like it if you would please try to come to our family get-togethers more often.
Even just two or three times per year would really mean a lot to me.” That’s all you need to say to get your point across, really… and by keeping it brief and using a polite, non-confrontational tone, you can keep emotions in check and usually avoid a more serious argument.
Tip #5 – Begin With “I” Instead of “You”:
A Harvard professor who specializes in marital conflict suggests using the word “I” whenever you’re making a complaint to your spouse. This one is especially useful when you’re saying something that your partner might call “nagging”
If you have a complaint about something your spouse is doing — leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen, for instance then start your sentence with “I” when you broach the subject.
As an example, you could say something like: “I know you’re busy in the mornings, but I’d really appreciate it if you could put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher before you leave for work.” This may not seem like a particularly important strategy, but it has been proven to reduce the likelihood of a discussion turning into a full-blown argument.
Ok, that’s five tips to prevent conflict in the first place… but what if you already find yourself in an argument with your spouse? Maybe you’re in a fight because you didn’t follow the tips I mentioned above, or maybe your spouse was the one who began yelling and initiated the argument.
Either way, let’s talk about some ways to defuse the conflict and prevent it from really getting out of hand… These are some of the things that make up what I call my “Dispute Defusing System”… it’s a set of techniques I’ve developed based on both academic research and my own experience working with coaching clients facing a marriage crisis.
Here are 2 things you can do to prevent an argument from getting out of hand…
#1 – Propose Potential Solutions:
One of the biggest mistakes that I see my clients make when they’re arguing with their spouses is that they offer lots of criticism and complaints, but no real solutions or suggestions to make the problem go away.
Let’s go back to the example I mentioned earlier say your spouse always avoids attending social gatherings with your family, and you want him or her to join for the occasional family dinner.
Instead of simply saying, “I hate how you never come to my parent’s or visit with my family” which is basically just whining try pairing every complaint or criticism with a potential solution.
In this case, you might say something like: “I know you don’t really enjoy visiting with my family, but it would be really great if you could try to come for dinner at my parent’s every so often. How about we agree that you’ll come to dinner with my family on special holidays, like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving?”
By suggesting a specific solution that would make you happy without forcing your spouse to completely “cave” to your demands and do what he or she may not want to do, you’re no longer simply nagging or complaining.
Now you’re outlining a potential solution to the problem, making it clear that you’ve considered your partner’s feelings and thought about ways to resolve things that don’t involve drastic changes for your spouse.
I always recommend pairing any complaint or criticism with an idea or even a partial idea for how to come to a mutually agreeable solution.
This often works very well, but even if your partner doesn’t accept your suggestions, at least you’ve put in the effort and attempted to work towards a positive outcome.
#2 – Bust Out Your Comedy Skills:
This particular tip isn’t really appropriate for the most serious discussions, but if you’re in an argument over something silly dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, for example humour can be an incredibly effective way to defuse things and bring perspective to the argument.
All you have to do is make an appropriately-timed joke or amusing comment when things are getting out of hand.
Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be that funny, a bad pun or silly joke is usually fine, because it lightens the mood and helps both your and your partner see the bigger picture.
Let’s say you’re arguing with your spouse about whose job it is to do the dishes. When things begin to spiral into a yelling match, you could make a joke about how you tried to get the cat to help load the dishwasher but ‘things got pretty hair’… something dumb like that. I know that’s not actually funny at all, really…
But it’ll do the job and hopefully get your partner to crack a smile. Studies have proven that humor in general can dramatically calm tensions and allow both parties in a conflict to back down, so give it a try next time you find yourself in an escalating argument.