Brad Browning here. I’m a marriage coach and author of the best-selling, Mend the Marriage program.
Today I’m going to share with you several tips that will help you prevent and diffuse arguments with your spouse.
For more tips on repairing and improving your marriage beyond what I’m about to talk about, please watch the full video on my website.
Remember that a marriage crisis doesn’t just go away on its own. So if your relationship is in jeopardy of collapse, then please visit my website and watch the full video there before things go downhill any further.
I’m going to begin by talking about a few ways to prevent arguments with your spouse.
A little bit later, I’ll talk about how to stop fighting 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.
How to Avoid An Argument
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 things 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.
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 that 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 as 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 an issue allows you to cool down, step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Sometimes you may realise that whatever it was that you were upset with isn’t worth an argument at all. Other times it may just give you time to think about how you can discuss the topic in a civilized, non-confrontational manner. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Work out a plan in advance.
If you use the 30 minute rule that I just talked about and I strongly recommend that 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.
Decide exactly what you’re going to say to your spouse in advance. If you and your partner have serious problems with frequent arguing, 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 that? You should enter any potential argument knowing the answers to both of those questions.
4. Use the three sentence rule.
When you have 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 into a rant that escalates the discussion as soon as it begins and it will keep you focused on the specific topic at hand.
Let’s say, for example, your spouse constantly makes excuses to avoid social gatherings with your family. Understandably this might upset you and you might want to bring up the subject with your partner.
Using the three 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’d 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. By keeping it brief and using a polite, non-confrontational tone, you can keep emotions in check and usually avoid a more serious argument.
5. Begin with “I” instead of “You”.
A Harvard professor who specializes in marital conflicts 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.
So, 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 your 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.
These are 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 the fight because you didn’t follow the tips that I just mentioned, or maybe your spouse was the one who began yelling and initiated the argument. Either way, let’s talk about some ways to diffuse 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-diffusing 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.
I’m going to share a few of these techniques in a second, but I encourage you to watch the full video on my website for more free info on building a healthy conflict-free marriage.
3 Things You Can Do To Prevent Arguments From Getting Out Of Hand
1. Go to bed angry.
Honestly, if I could bust open a single commonly accepted relationship myth it would be the idea that couples should never go to bed angry at one another. Quite frankly, that is downright terrible advice.
Sure, no one wants to go to bed mad at their spouse but the simple fact of the matter is this can actually be a very effective means of diffusing an argument.
If things are getting heated during a discussion with your partner and it looks like you’re not going to reach a happy ending any time soon, then it’s best to shut it down and revisit the topic tomorrow.
Sometimes this can be enough to allow cooler heads to prevail, making the topic go away altogether. Other times it’s a much needed break that can help you calm your tempers down so that you can revisit the discussion again the following day.
All you need to do to put this overnight break into practice is just to say something like “Look, we’re clearly both getting emotional over this so let’s both sleep on it and revisit the discussion tomorrow when you get home from work.”
This is actually a tactic that my wife and I use fairly often when we find ourselves in a more serious disagreement. More often than not, it works like magic.
So let go of the belief that you should never go to bed angry. Doing so is actually a very effective strategy to prevent arguments from getting out of hand in the first place.
2. Propose potential solutions.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see my clients making when they’re arguing with their spouse 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 that I mentioned earlier. Say your spouse always avoids attending social gatherings with your family and you want him or her to join in for the occasional family dinner.
Instead of simply saying “I hate how you never come to my parents’ 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 just try to come for dinner at my parents’ place every so often. How about we agree 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 are no longer simply nagging or complaining. Instead, you are 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 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 put in the effort and attempted to work toward a positive outcome.
3. Bust out your comedy skills.
Now 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 – then humor can be an incredibly effective way to diffuse things and bring a little perspective to the argument.
All you have to do is just make an appropriately timed joke or amusing comment when things are starting to get out of hand. Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be that funny. A bad pun or a silly joke is usually just fine because it lightens the mood and helps both you and your partner to see the bigger picture.
Let’s say you are arguing with your spouse about whose job it is to do the dishes, for instance. When things 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 hairy. Something dumb like that. I know that’s not actually funny at all really but it’ll do the job and hopefully it’ll get your partner to at least 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 with your spouse.
This is getting pretty long, so I think I’ll stop here for today. If you have any questions about how to stop arguing with your spouse feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
I also offer one-on-one marriage coaching to a select number of clients. If you’re interested in learning more about my personal coaching program please visit my website now.
If you and your husband or wife have been arguing all the time and can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, I encourage you to act now to turn things around before your relationship gets worse.
The best place to start is by watching the video presentation I mentioned earlier.