Disagreements are inevitable in a relationship but they don’t have to be destructive. The key to handling disagreements comes down to the nature of how you communicate your needs.
I break the process of having difficult conversations into three pieces:
Readiness to share/receive. It’s important to consider when you are ready to talk as well as when you are ready to receive communication.
Hint: You are NOT ready to share if one of the first three emotions you are feeling is ANGER. Remember anger is never a primary emotion it is always secondary; so feel it and move through it to get to a place where you are able to deliver messages to your partner without it blocking your true feelings. Often under anger we are hurt, frustrated, and/or sad; try to list out your three emotions.
Hint: You are NOT ready to receive information if your first thoughts are about how you can’t wait to get your point across or if you could care less what your partner is about to say. You can ask to take time but make sure you let your partner know when you are ready to listen, otherwise it will only frustrate them more.
Communicating using the rules of engagement. Here are some pre-established guidelines to keep the conversation ‘in-bounds.’ The top three rules I use in my office with clients are as follows:
Hint: Try to stay with ‘I statements’ as saying ‘YOU’ is full of blame and often sends the wrong message.
Own what you can and discuss how to do better in the future together.
We should be able to learn and grow in our relationship. Remember that we are just people trying our best to get by so- assume positive intent. I ask clients to consider, “What if your partner is doing the best they can?”
Hint: Validation. To valid we try to see the other person’s perspective. We do not have to agree with our spouse to validate their emotions. We just have to show that we understand their perception. For instance, a partner may say, “I can understand that you feel annoyed when I leave my shoes out.” However, this partner is not saying they too feel the same way, which is fine, we do not have to feel the same way.
What can you take responsibility for in this situation? Be genuine in this exchange. I have worked with a lot of people that felt they were very ‘right’ that ended up very ‘divorced.’ Instead of arguing as to why your partner should see your point clarify how you feel and what you need to move forward together.
By following these guidelines, you will learn and grow together and not fear disagreeing.