Many arguments arise when we want one outcome and our partner wants a different one. For instance, let’s say you don’t think the kids should have more than 30 minutes of TV a day. Your spouse thinks TV isn’t a big deal. Or let’s say you want to take a romantic vacation, but your spouse would rather spend that money on a home improvement project.
I’m sure I could come up with 100s of examples. But I won’t. Instead, I’d like you to take a moment and think about how this is true in your life. How many of your arguments are triggered merely by a difference of opinion? How many are a result of you wanting one thing and your spouse wanting something else?
For me, it’s a lot.
The worst is when a difference of opinion is never resolved. So you keep having the same argument over and over and over again. That’s no fun, is it?
Here are 5 reasons differences of opinion don’t get resolved:
You made sure your partner understood your point of view. But did you make sure to understand his? If you don’t know why your partner doesn’t agree with you, it’s going to be very difficult to reach a compromise that you can both feel good about.
You assumed. Perhaps you assumed that your partner knew what you wanted. Don’t assume. Check. Ask, “Do you understand where I am coming from? Could you tell me what you are hearing me say?”
You got lost in self pity. Rather than constructively try to solve the problem, you obsessed over, “Why does this keep happening to me? How could I have ever married someone like this? Why doesn’t he agree with me? How could he be like this?” Such thinking is normal and most married people do it from time to time if not every day. Just know that it won’t solve your problems. To solve problems, move beyond self pity and embrace change.
You refused to budge. You became so attached to getting your way that you refused to consider any other alternatives. Shift your focus from winning and over to problem solving. That way you can both win the argument.
You attacked your partner, not the problem. Rather than attempt to listen, understand, compromise, or agree on a strategy, you attempted to gain leverage and power by taking your partner down a notch or 867 of them. Name-calling might scare your partner and it might cause your partner to feel unloved or even back down, but it’s probably not going to get you any closer to the outcome you seek. Even if you convince your partner to do what you want, it’s going to be a hollow victory. Your partner will resent you and become passive, just waiting to gloat, “I told you so” when your strategy fails. Whenever you feel the urge to call your partner names, ask for a time out. Return to the conversation only once you’ve calmed down.
DISCUSS: How do these issues get in the way of problem solving? How have you been able to overcome them? Which of these do you struggle with and why?
SPEAKING OF DISCUSSING THINGS: Kris won the March Reader of the Month. She is getting a $50 Visa Gift card from Rental Car Choices. If you’d like to win the Reader of the Month, all you have to do to be eligible is comment a lot on the site.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ THIS: I wrote an essay about our goldfish for The Atlantic.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.