The Key to Handling Your First Big Fight as a Married Couple
And find the best outcome for the both of you.
For some reason, the two of you can't seem to see eye to eye on a particular topic-and this time, it's a bit of a bigger issue than wedding décor discourse. Before the disagreement escalates, read on from relationship experts who provide some tips to finding middle ground.
Look beyond the argument on the surface.
Newly married couples can argue over just about anything, from money, to sex, to chores, space, how to spend free time, to really anything that they didn't talk about before tying the knot, says relationship expert Anita Chlipala. But you'll want to look further into what the pressing issue really is to best solve it. "For example, let's say a husband makes a big purchase without discussing it with his wife," Chlipala says. "For one couple, it may not be an issue because the wife values her own financial freedom, and so respects that her husband does whatever he wants with his money. For another couple, it can turn into a fight because for the wife, mutual decision making is important to her, and it's a sign of respect when her husband considers her opinions."
Avoid escalating the issue.
When conflicts arise, it's important to "make room for two," says relationship expert Hilary Silver. "Instead of seeking to persuade each other to agree, validate each other," she adds. "Really hear and be curious about each other. It's not a threat to the relationship to have these differences. Rather, it keeps things interesting for the long term." Silver adds that it's important to be open to each other's experiences, because that's how intimacy is created.
Chlipala says a little humor, when used appropriately, may also help prevent the issue of getting bigger. "Taking a break or temporarily changing the subject can let a spouse regroup," she says, adding that when arguing occurs, the "fight of flight" mode we can resort to isn't productive, so it's better to take a break, calm down, and try again at a later time.
Bring up the topic with care.
If you're looking to start a conversation about something that's bothering you, you'll want to handle it gently instead of harshly, Chlipala says. "Avoid blaming, attacking and criticizing the other, and instead, voice [your] concerns as positively (or at least neutrally) as [you] can."
Silver says it helps to acknowledge your partner's position before stating your own. "It sets a conciliatory tone to address potential objections first," she adds. "It can sound like this, 'I know you feel really strongly about XYZ, and I understand why, and I really want you to know that I feel differently, so let's figure out what to do about this so we can both feel satisfied."
Sometimes it's OK if there's no middle ground.
There will be those arguments where you just can't get on board with what your spouse is thinking or feeling or doing, but Silver says there are questions the both of you can ask yourselves and then revisit, including:
- How important is this on a scale of 1-10?
- What does this topic mean to me, what does it mean to my spouse?
- What might happen if things don't go my way?
- What might happen if I get my way, and my spouse doesn't?
- What other perspective can I see this from? What new information could we consider to make us 'unstuck'?
- Is compromise possible? If one of or the both of us gives a little, how can that be noted for future situations?
You don't have to agree on everything all the time, Chlipala adds. "But understanding their point of view demonstrates acceptance and respect toward your partner."