By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
In a country with a divorce rate near 50%, it's not difficult to see the impact divorce can have on kids. One of the best things you can do as a parent is to have a wonderful relationship with your spouse that your kids can model.
But family life in this country isn't getting any easier. So how about you? Do you have an argument with your husband that seems to keep coming up? Do you know when it's coming, but you just can't seem to help yourself? These arguments are the result of issues that touch sensitive areas of our lives, and tell us messages we don't like to hear. These messages can be things like, 'He doesn't care about me,' or 'He's always trying to control me.'
In order to avoid many of these arguments, a first step is to avoid what so many people do when they're arguing frequently with their spouses: They focus on the content of the argument, and not the process of the argument. After you've had the same argument 100 times, the content doesn't have much meaning anymore, does it? Talk about the definition of insanity!
Think about the process of the argument, and make sure that you follow three rules whenever you argue:
1. Avoid criticism and blame, and turn your criticism into asking for what you'd like from him. There's no need to criticize your husband, but there's no need to hold everything in, either. If you'd like him to do something differently, make a request of him. It allows you to focus on the present and future, and to forget the past. You can do this in a calm and measured way, without resorting to anything that will result in blaming you back.
2. Listen to your husband. When couples are arguing, it's very easy to interrupt and give your own two cents. Allow your husband to finish what he's saying each time he speaks. That way, the level of frustration won't escalate more than it needs to. If necessary, do a back-to-back exercise: Get back to back, and each person gets to talk until they're finished without interruption. The other person then reflects back what they heard. If the speaker doesn't feel that was what they meant, the process is started over. Take turns until the issue is settled or each of you feels heard.
3. Find what you have in agreement with each other. You may not be able to agree totally with your husband, but you probably have some beliefs in common, and you probably still have a 'big picture' view that has some things in common. Try your best to focus on what's positive in your discussion, and avoid spending all your time on 'my agenda which isn't being met.'
There is only one way to change your husband--change yourself first! Getting your needs met may seem like a worthy goal, but it's a poor way to be successful in a marriage. It's far better to look after the needs of your husband, and to reap the benefits down the road.
After all, your kids are watching.
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