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Monday, January 17, 2011

Secrets to An Argument-Free Marriage

Recently I discovered that my marriage is more unusual than I thought. I mentioned a very minor thing that happened, to a friend and she said "Wait, you guys didn't have fight over that? I totally would have blown up at my husband over that." Honestly, the thought hadn't occurred to me. "We don't fight." "Really?!" Really. In the ten years that we've been together I can only think of a half dozen actual fights that we've had, and three of those were before we were married. So I've been thinking about why we don't fight. It's not because our life is perfect, because it isn't. It's not because we always agree, because we often don't. It's because we have learned a few things along the way and we work at it. Now I am not a licensed therapist, nor have I had many relationships to draw experience from, nor is my marriage perfect, so take my advice for what it is worth. But I thought I would write these down for the benefit of my children when they are older and anyone else who cares to read this.
  • Admit when you are wrong. What is the point of denying it? You don't win any prizes for being right when you are actually wrong. You may however cause contention and resentment in your relationship.
  • Think before you speak. Recently we returned from a trip the night before I had to work. I told my husband that if he felt inclined to do laundry not to wash my favorite sweater with the regular laundry with a basic description of the sweater. When I came home from work he had done all of the laundry and shrunk my favorite sweater. I was frustrated, but before yelling I remembered a few things. 1. While I was at work he was sick and taking care of both of our sick kids. 2. He didn't shrink my sweater because he was trying to tick me off. He did all of the laundry because he was trying to help me out. 3. He is far more important to me than my sweater. The sweater is not worth hurting feelings or causing contention.
  • Remember that you love your spouse. My husband is my lover, best friend, co-conspirator, and father of my adorable children. When he does things that frustrate me, I remember that I don't want to hurt him by saying something harsh. I treat him with respect and kindness and he treats me the same way. (This one encompasses being honest, caring and non-manipulative.)
  • Criticize gently and only when totally necessary. My husband is well aware that little girl hair is not his area of expertise. It is totally unnecessary for me to make comments on Thing 1's ponytails when I come home from work. There are things that are worth mentioning to him, but I try not to use a tone with him that I wouldn't want him to use with me.
  • If you have something that bothers you, tell your spouse before it festers into a bigger deal than it needs to be. When I noticed that my husband often put his socks in the laundry basket wadded up I said "Honey, if you want your socks to get clean they need to be right side out." He wasn't trying to make my life more difficult, and once I pointed it out he stopped. Problem solved. If we have concerns we let each other know.
  • Give your spouse some time and space. Sometimes I feel a little bit jealous of the free time he has to play the piano, exercise and occasionally play computer games with his brothers. But I recognize he needs that time to cope with the stress that comes with taking 18 credits a semester. He also recognizes that I need that time too, and when he can, does things like help with the laundry and dishes so I have time to read a book or go running.
  • Your relationship with your spouse creates a mood in your home. When I was growing up my parents fought a lot. It caused a great deal of anxiety, fear and depression for me, and it didn't make them happy either. Things are much better now for them, but the point is fighting with your spouse is not worth the resulting pain and negative energy that results.
  • Take time to laugh together. It relieves stress and tension. Every evening, whoever has spent more time with the kids will relate funny things that they said that day. Money and free time for dates are not things that we have in excess, but at least a couple times a month, after the kids are in bed we fold laundry together, sort socks and watch a few episodes of The Office.
  • Work together. Maintaining the house is a group project. Dishes (or any other chore for that matter) are not the responsibility of any one person. (Of course when I'm not working full-time and he's not in school full-time, I will probably doing significantly more house work, but I'm ok with that.) Regardless of the situation we both pitch in to make it work.
  • Remember that you are a team with common goals. When Thing 1 was tiny, we called ourselves "Team Baby". Our common goal was survival. (We had titles too, based on the amount of baby bodily fluid that we had gotten on our persons. My brother was the Court Jester. Thing 1 was the Princess. My husband was the King and mommy was All-High Empress. Yes, that's right, I was the Empress of  baby vomit.) Since then our common goals have expanded beyond survival, but we still work at it together. When we make significant decisions we consider how the results effect each other and our family.
  • Pick your battles. Some things are worth fighting over. But most aren't. Before you decide that you want to start a fight, think about the effects. Is the issue that important?

9 comments:

  1. This is a GREAT article!! My hubby and I, married almost 29 years, also do not fight.. seems we already put most of your blog into practice! LOL
    I would add that these work for siblings, too. I get sad when I see siblings fight.. I always taught mine that if they cannot get along with each other, how will they ever get along elsewhere? And also that many 'friends' come and go, but your family is eternal -- you need to get along.. And, guess what, it works! My kids (still teenagers, and a 20yo) are BEST FRIENDS!! It is such a joy just to see them interact.. :o)

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  2. @deerie- Congrats on 29 years w/o fighting! That's also a good point about siblings. I hadn't thought about it that way, probably because I'm not nearly as tender with my siblings as I am with my husband. My brother and sister (especially my brother) know very well that I will very bluntly tell them what I think when everyone else is afraid to. However, unlike my siblings, my husband is always there at the end of the day and so I put a little more effort into maintaining the peace.

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  3. Nice job on your list. My husband and I have been married 48 years in June and he will tell everyone that our marriage is "perfect" and in many ways it is but we have pretty much practiced most of your suggestions above without even having to think about them. Being in love and choosing the right partner has an awful lot to do with it and guess what, I chose mine when I was 16 and was married two weeks after I graduated. He will tell you that he took me out on our first day and told me he was going to marry me because he knew exactly what he was looking for in a life partner and I was it! Scared me to death initially. I thought he was crazy! Now I know that even though he wasn't yet a member or the church he was led by the spirit! That happens with people outside the church too, you know. This marriage has yielded two missionaries and all 4 children being married in the temple. He really dislikes it when people say "You have to work at your marriage". That is so foreign to him and he refuses to believe our marriage has been one bit of "work". I have one suggestion on My List that has worked for us. "Always put the other person first in every situation and that way your own needs will be met but not by YOU!" Happy Marriage! There's nothing like it!

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  4. A lot of it has to do with how people define "fight" and "argument" and a lot of it has to do with individual communication styles. Fighting is not bad. Not fighting is not bad. Not resolving differences is bad and fighting dirty is bad.

    Found you on MMB.

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  5. My wife and I haven't had a fight in our 21 years of marriage. We decided before our wedding that we wouldn't fuss over things that have no eternal consequences, and that has made all the difference. I stated two rules: Rule #1--She is always right Rule #2--If I think she is wrong, refer to Rule #1." (I have learned that when we disagree, she indeed most always turns out to be right.) For both of us, being "right" is far less important than having peace in our home and having the Spirit of the Lord in our home and in our relationship. Yes, we disagree at times, but the prospect of a fight is disarmed when one of us says, "Are we having our first fight?" Then we laugh. Believe me, we are far from being perfect. However, having peace in our home helps us both emotionally and spiritually. We don't claim to be better than those who sometimes fight, but our plan works for us.

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  6. Some great comments.
    @Hadley Family- You're welcome.

    @ Anonymous 1-I believe that compatibility and who you choose as your house has a huge effect. Sometimes I come across men think 'Phew, so glad my husband is NOT like you.' Not to say they are bad people (ok, sometimes they are), but I just don't think we could peacefully get along.
    And when I say we 'work' at our relationship, I don't mean to make it sound like drudgery. It means that you have to keep things in focus and sometimes it takes some effort not to get upset, because neither you or your spouse are perfect human beings.

    @Giggles- Yes, fight depends on your definition. I define it as being angry at each other and either raising our voices or not speaking to one another. Either way there is contention. But if something really bothers you, I don't think you are helping your relationship by not discussing the problem. And sometimes that just may lead to a fight. So be it, hopefully it leads to a resolution.

    @ karlb- Thanks

    @ Anonymous 2- Well said. I like your line
    "For both of us, being "right" is far less important than having peace in our home and having the Spirit of the Lord in our home and in our relationship."

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  7. Thank you for this. We had a bad day in our relationship yesterday - suffice to say it was one thing after the other that we were picking each other on, totally uncalled for, trivial junk that in the scheme of things doesn't matter.

    We're over it now...but at the time I wanted to scream! I love the advice on speaking to your spouse in a way you wouldn't mind being spoken to. Great reminder and piece of advice I will take on board.

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