Lower intensity can help make arguments less damaging

Couples argue, but nothing says disagreements have to escalate to the last person standing.  | Getty Images

Q: I’m scared. My wife and I argue with each other a lot. Although we can sometimes get to be quite nasty with each other, neither of us has as of yet threatened to pull the pin on our marriage and file for a divorce. But it could happen and that scares me.

I really love my wife. When we are not arguing I love being with her and together we have managed to put together a loving and caring family.

We want to keep it going. So how do we do it? How do we get rid of those pesky arguments and get back into the more joyous moments of being in love with each other?

A: Likely the real problem here is that arguments seem to fly out of nowhere, catching you off-guard. The next thing you know you have manufactured a major incident from what was likely an innocent comment made by one or the other of you.

All of us have moments when we disagree with each other. That is the glory of intimacy. Through intimacy, or marriage or whatever it is you want to call the magic of love, you and your wife can learn much from each other.

You grew up in different homes. Maybe you even came from different communities, and your family histories, be they good or bad, are ways for both of you to better understand yourselves and your lives.

It is as different for you as it is for her. But rather than relishing whatever it is that encircles her family you find yourself staunchly defending that which is indefensible — something that came either from your own family or some idealized version of love you have seen on your television set.

Of course she is doing the same thing, and then the fight is on. You know that one. It is a fight that no one wins, everyone loses, and everyone gets hurt feelings in the process.

So let’s put this into perspective. You and your wife are going to disagree with each other. You might even have the occasional argument. But nothing in the book says that the battles that encompass your bathroom floor matt have to escalate to the last person standing.

Arguments can be stopped. In fact they should be. Somewhere along the way you and your wife need to shut down the intensity and not let your times together be as angry and hostile as I understand them to be.

Here are some thoughts for de-escalating once your argument has started to infringe on your personal integrity:

  • Take a break from the argument. You don’t have to have the last word. That is not important. What is important is that you get your composure back in line long before you say something you will regret having said. Go for a walk, shoot baskets with your son, or have an early morning coffee in a garden sparkled with heavy dew. Breath deep, enjoy the moment and share that harmonic duet you had with nature with your wife. That is more important than arguing is.
  • Try not to win, try to understand. When you and your wife are arguing with each other, each of you is begging to be understood. What’s wrong with you being the first one to say, “I don’t think that I am understanding you. Can you help me?” Who knows, once she has finished quietly explaining to you what she has been trying to say, she might even ask the same from you, and wouldn’t that just ice your cake?
  • Apologize. I doubt that you married your wife so that you could be in the running for the jerk of the year award. You married her because you loved her, you thought that you could help her through her lifetime’s journey. If she is hurting because of something you have said or done, then be sorry. Better still, tell her that you are sorry. It is not that hard.
  • Be close to each other. There are a lot of ways to be in touch with each other — holding hands, sharing a hug, sitting side by side on the couch. What would happen if you invited her to ride around the field in that big new tractor gracing your Quonset? The closer you get, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the less you will argue, and the less you argue the better are the chances that you will understand that the two of you can still be a couple, two peas in a pod, even if you are two different people. And isn’t that wonderful?

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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