Arguing? Break it Down!


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All couples have conflict. Unless you married a clone of yourself, you will find times where you disagree on an issue. And sometimes, it seems there is no way to get to a resolution where you will both be satisfied.

We’ve talked before in this blog about the fact that there is no way to “win” an argument with your spouse. You don’t live in a courtroom where you are trying to plead a case before a jury. No outside body is going to pronounce a verdict that says one side or the other is the most compelling. The goal of any marital conflict should be that you end up in a better place, and with a better solution than when you started.

One way to do this is to break a conflict down into bite sized pieces. It could very well be that you are in agreement with the bulk of an issue, with only a small point causing the stress. But if you jump into the fray with both feet, as most couples do, you will remain oblivious to that fact. Before things get too heated, take a step back and dissect the issue. Often times, there are logical elements and emotional elements in play. Separate those into two different categories and see if there is any area(s) that you are both in agreement on.

Let me give you an example. A couple is in the early stages of planning their daughter’s wedding. It seems that every time they try to sit and make arrangements together, an argument erupts. She thinks that they should provide an expensive dress, he sees that as a waste of money. He thinks they should pay for an open bar at the reception – she sees that as superfluous. Because some of their earliest, spoken desires conflicted, they now are reluctant to even have conversations regarding the upcoming event.

How could they break this down? They could start with a budget. Assuming they don’t have an unlimited pool of money to pay for this wedding, they need to agree on how much they can afford to spend on it. The first step would be to meet with their daughter to understand what she values the most and to prioritize her wishes. Notice at this point, they are not finalizing or committing to any one specific aspect of the ceremony over another, they are simply looking at the money that will be required.

This will involve some negotiation, as each partner may have to compromise things they were planning on in order to gather the funds. It might involve delaying a vacation or the purchase of a new car. It is important that both partners agree on a budget as well as what will be required to fund that budget.

Once the budget has been agreed upon, the couple can begin planning the ceremony. Most importantly, they’ve built a foundation that they can both agree on. Now the process becomes how best to allocate the funds that they have. In this case, they have a prioritized list of their daughter’s wishes. They can begin to get cost estimates and see how far down the list their available funds will supply.

What was once a series of emotional “hot-buttons” has now simply become a to-do list. If they get to the place where they’ve run out of budget but want to provide more, they can go back to the first step, identify any other areas where they could cut back (or earn more) in order to do so. If they can, they do. If they can’t, that’s where the planning stops.The point of this blog is not wedding planning. It’s about taking an issue that causes stress and conflict and taking the emotion out of it.

There are some situations that are filled with emotion. Even these can be broken down. What are the areas that you agree upon? Where specifically, do the differences of opinion begin? It seems like sometimes in an argument you are completely in conflict with your spouse. You can’t agree on anything. If you can take a step back, you might realize that you agree on more than you would have thought. There’s something very de-escalating about agreement. When you realize you are on the same page about key parts of an issue, the areas of disagreement seem less daunting.

Next time you find yourself in an argument with your spouse. Give this a try. Take a deep breath, take a step back and figure out what you are actually aligned on. Once you have that, it is much easier to focus on a resolution for your differing opinions.

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