WHEN YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE CAN’T AGREE
Stop Working Against Each Other and Start Working Together.
By Angela Guzman
Did you know, according to psychological researcher and clinician John Gottman, 69 percent of married couples experience perpetual marital conflicts. Typically, the disagreements that couples have are continual and repeated. The statistics suggest that couples are not identifying solutions to their ongoing issues and have not found ways, as couple, they can agree to disagree.
Disagreements are common and do not indicate whether or not a couple is compatible. However, both partners must be willing to listen to their spouse’s reasoning behind the issue being debated. Some of the most common areas where couples experience disagreements are:
• Religious practices and observation – this issue is elevated if the couple have children
• Children – conceiving, adoption, agreeing on whether or not to have kids, and how to raise children
• Financial goals and budget plans – one may be a spender and the other is a saver
• Material items – simple minimalist approach versus a more materialistic approach
• Housework and home maintenance
• Social media and technology usage – establishing and adhering to solid social media and phone usage
• In-laws and friends – couples may not like their spouse’s family and/or friends due to conflicting views and/or prior incidences
Marital disagreements are inevitable; however, the key to a healthy and happy marriage is continually being present and willing to work it out. No one is perfect but growing up together as a couple is crucial for marriages to thrive and progress.
When you and your spouse can’t agree, here’s what you should do:
Acknowledge the problem.
Even though it’s tempting to sweep things under the rug, it’s not a good idea. First of all, emotions and feelings are invested into your relationship. Not acknowledging your spouse’s emotions and feelings indicate that you don’t genuinely care. Secondly, each partner should discuss the problem rationally with an open mind and calm attitude.
During the discussion, each spouse will take turns voicing their opinion and concerns without any interruptions from their spouse. It’s a good idea to turn off the TV and phones, so that there are no potential distractions.
After each person shares their opinion and insights, the couple is allowed to still not have a joint decision or agree. No one creates an educated opinion or resolution in one discussion session. It may take your spouse days, weeks or (depending on the importance level) months to be on the same page – or even agree to disagree. Moreover, the key is to grant your spouse the space and a reasonable amount of time to process everything. Agree, as a couple, to have ongoing conversations about the topic and be willing to seek other resources for additional insight – marriage counseling, self-help books, and research. Strive to be respectful and make progress within your continued discussions.
Accept and understand the idea of over-functioning and under-functioning.
The reality of every marital relationship is that there will be topics where spouses disagree on the level of importance. This rationale process is categorized into two buckets: over-functioning and under-functioning. We all react in one of these entities within every aspect of our life. For example, maybe yard work is not that important to you and is something you could care less about – which qualifies as under-functioning. For your spouse, yard work is a high priority – which qualifies as over-functioning. Your spouse may be frustrated because you don’t agree on the priority level and that will be, most likely, reflected in the effort you put into it.
There are a few solutions. You can compromise and pitch in or you can agree to disagree. Depending on the issue at hand, as a couple, you’ll need to discuss the priority of the disagreement. In the case of yard work, perhaps the over-functioning spouse will take on the majority of the work because it’s important to them. But they will understand that they cannot hold that against their spouse. The under-functioning spouse can agree to help, if necessary. But they are not allowed to make condescending remarks about the yard work.
Pick your battles. It’s not fair to make every disagreement a high priority agenda item. Live according to your own values and integrity, but do not tear others down because they do not share the same ideals.
Search for common ground.
As a couple, aim to not lose sight of the reason why you are married. To achieve common ground, identify your common goals and be willing to incorporate your goals into regular conversations versus only addressing them when issues arise. For instance, maybe you and your spouse disagree about the finances but you both want to purchase a home. Home in on the common ground of wanting to become homeowners and identify what you need to do as a couple to achieve that goal. Sometimes laying out the groundwork on paper is the best solution and will help shed light on the bigger picture.
It’s impossible to achieve common ground if you’re unable to stop arguing long enough to have the conversation and share your goals. Once you and your spouse have reached common ground, celebrate by spending quality time together. Memorialize the happy moments of your relationship – and ultimately being two grownups. Your celebration doesn’t need to be fancy, but anything you do should be together. Perhaps that looks like: cooking a meal, taking a walk or hike, watching a movie or going for a bike ride.
We all have bad habits and make our spouse ‘crazy’ with our quirks. The key is to remember that no one is perfect, and every couple will have their issues. If you’re unable to identify the positive things about each other, you’ll never be able to get past the disagreements and misunderstandings. Don’t try to change your spouse, choose to grow together and bring out the best qualities in each other.