John and Jan (real people but not their real names) are some friends of ours who started out as a happy couple, but over the years they fell in to a rut. Their laughter started fading and their words to one another went from kind and compassionate to harsh and critical. Most their conversations turned into arguments. They talked badly about each other when the other wasn’t around. They’d even vent online about each other’s shortcomings.
John and Jan were in a cycle of negativity that’s hard to break. They weren’t sure how they got into it and there weren’t sure if there was a way out. Their frustration and exhaustion with each other seemed overwhelming, but they decided that they didn’t want to keep living that way. They knew their only two options were divorce or making massive changes in their marriage. They thankfully opted for the latter and over a period of time, by applying the principles below, they’ve managed to reimagine their relationship and create the marriage they both wanted and needed.
I talk to so many couples who are stuck in a cycle of negativity. All their conversations seem to lead straight to arguments, and the tone of their marriage has become negative, sarcastic or mean-spirited.
Here are four keys to help you and your spouse STOP arguing and START building a stronger marriage (in no particular order)…
1. If you’re always “keeping score” of each other’s faults, BOTH of you will lose.
Be quick to forgive and move forward. Let grace flow freely in your marriage. Apologize openly and wholeheartedly for anything you’ve done and also give wholehearted forgiveness when you spouse needs it.
This leads right into #2…
2. Remember that nobody “wins” an argument in marriage.
You’re on the SAME TEAM so you’ll either win together or lose together. Work together to find solutions. Don’t try to make your points or demand your way. Instead, make it your mission to understand your spouse’s perspective. If you’ll both take this approach, it will revolutionize your relationship.
#3 is difficult BUT it could instantly change your communication…
3. Refuse to speak with a negative, nagging or sarcastic tone.
Without even realizing it, you might be speaking with a harsh or negative tone. The tone of your words will shape the tone of your marriage. Be intentional about speaking with kindness and compassion even when your spouse is responding with negativity. You can either be a thermostat or a thermometer. A thermometer adjusts to the climate but a thermostat CHANGES the climate. Your positive tone can start to change the climate in your communicate and improve your marriage.
#4 might be the single most important way to improve a marriage…
4. Give each other your best; not your leftovers.
Be consistent. Stop fighting against each other and start fighting for each other! Don’t give up. It may take time, but it’s well worth the effort.