Moving is stressful. This isn’t new information. And I’ll admit to being a little testier than usual. And grumpier. And bitchier. And awfuler. Awfuller? Not a word. Anyway, I haven’t exactly been the easiest person to deal with over the past couple weeks. Allen deals with situation by repeatedly telling me how much he loves me and how sweet I am, as if he repeats it often enough he’ll convince himself it’s still true. Actually, I know he still loves me. But that sweet part? He’s totally trying to convince himself on that one.
The stress has led to a few more arguments than normal. Some of the arguments have been fairly heated, but we’ve managed to get past them. There were a couple of nights that we went to bed so angry we told each other “I love you” through gritted teeth only to turn our backs to each other and fall asleep. Well, ALLEN would fall asleep. I swear, not ten seconds would pass and he’d be blissfully unconscious. I, on the other hand, would lie there and stew in silence, occasionally sighing louder than necessary in hopes that it would wake him and have him suffer from sleeplessness, too. It never worked.
But the thing I do best when it comes to arguing — Is it even okay to acknowledge how good I am when it comes to arguing? — is this….Even in the heat of the moment, even when I’m so angry I’m about to pop a vein in my neck, I’m always very aware that there’s a line I can’t cross when it comes to the words I choose to say. I never say something I can never take back. How many times after a particularly ugly argument where the most vile, hateful, below-the-belt things are said, do you hear someone try to explain, “I didn’t mean what I said. I was just angry.” But that’s the thing! In that moment, you DID mean it! Those words that came spewing out of your mouth like putrid vomit had been sitting there somewhere in your head or they would’ve never come out. So at least in that aspect of arguing, I’m good. There are other areas where I’m failing terribly.
So I googled around a bit and found several articles about arguing in marriage. Based on the amount of articles, this is a huge problem that needs fixing. Or does it? I came across tone article from Dr. Terri Orbach — aka The Love Doctor — who followed a group of married couples for TWENTY EIGHT YEARS! And she found that couples who DON’T have disagreements haven’t fared as well in marriage.
She said, “Four couples in the study that said they never had disagreements in year one, were no longer together in year three.” But what her study did find was that how couples communicate and resolve arguments is very important.
So here are Dr. Orbach’s tips for healthy arguing in marriage!
Time it right. Dr. Orbach says we shouldn’t bring up touchy subjects when we’re in HALT mode. That’s (H)ungry, (A)ngry, (L)onely or (T)ired. She noted that most couples tend to bring up important — and potentially argumentative — topics right before bedtime. Don’t do that. Pick a time when both of you are rested and not under a time constraint or stress.
Use “I” statements not “you” statements. Saying, “I feel overwhelmed when I have so much to do around the house,” gives your spouse the opportunity to offer help. However, saying, “You never help me around the house!” makes the other person feel attacked, puts them in defensive mode and shuts down the lines of communication.
Go to bed angry. Some things CAN wait until tomorrow. Staying up all night to work something out only leaves you exhausted and irritated. But sleeping on it overnight can give you perspective, allowing you to calm down and remember to fight fair. Dr. Orbach says, “Go to bed mad and talk about it tomorrow.”
Apologize. Dr. Orbach says when newlyweds argue, they’re basically fighting for turf and it can feel like a marriage breaker. But over time, you have a bigger picture and you focus on the long term, which makes winning and being right less important. So if you’re wrong, own up to it. And don’t say, “I’m sorry, but you were wrong, too!” Take full responsibility and focus on your own actions.
Watch your stress level. When we are stressed, little things that bother us are amplified, causing us to fight more. So pay attention to your stress level and do what you need to reduce it. Some of us may choose to exercise. Some of us may choose to meditate. Some of us may choose a slightly dirty martini with blue cheese olives. Do what works for you.
Diffuse with humor. Humor can cut the tension and make it more difficult to stay mad at each other, but the key is using the right kind of humor so you don’t make things worse! So if there’s a funny word that always makes you both laugh, try it!