I’m sure you all know the saying that it takes two to tango, and of course literally this is true. We frequently hear it used in terms of it taking two people to engage in an argument, and this is also very true. You may be aware of this already but has this knowledge actually helped your relationship? Chances are it hasn’t. The reason why is you need to know first how you begin to engage in dancing with your partner and then have the tools and skills to do something other than engage in the behaviors that lead to or pour fire onto the arguments.
For some people this could be very difficult to discover and they may need the help of a marriage counselor in order to objectively see how they are contributing to the problem. If you would like to give it a go on your own, however, here are some questions to think about which may lead you to some understanding of what you can do differently.
How do arguments start between you and your partner? Think about past arguments and how they begin. What is happening prior to an argument? What do you do before an argument? Make sure to focus on your behaviors. How would your partner describe your behaviors? Although I have already acknowledged that it takes two, you ultimately only have control over your own behavior and will need to focus on what you can do differently. On the flip side, by changing your own behaviors you may be able to influence your partner’s behaviors as it will no longer make sense for your partner to respond to you in the same way when you are acting differently.
For example, perhaps many of your arguments begin because your spouse tends to make stops on his way home from work, sometimes they are short and other times he may not be home for up to 2 hours after he gets off. You understandably become frustrated, not knowing when to expect him and not knowing when to make dinner, and having to continue to take care of the kids on your own. You tend to “nag” your husband about this as you frequently send text messages trying to find out when he will be home (although these are never accurate either) and complain about all the things you had to handle on your own while he was out. Although the outcome you may like is for your husband to come home shortly after work, your way of trying to get that has not worked thus far and in fact leads to bigger arguments. Perhaps it is time to try something new and different. At the least you know that “nagging” leads to bigger fights and if you can at least stop nagging, you won’t have the arguments anymore.
Once you are aware of how your behavior plays into the arguments, you will then need to look at what you can do differently. Brainstorm different possibilities and think about how your partner may respond to each one. It will be hard to know which one is the right thing, and not everything will work out just how you want it, but you have to try something unless you want more of what you are currently getting! You may choose to do something slightly different or to make a complete 180! For the example above the wife could choose to simply stop nagging, she could begin eating without her husband, she could leave the house with the kids (if she has any) before her husband gets home with or without telling him where she went and when she will be home, or even make positive comments about him going out and/or encouraging him to do so. Part of the choice is knowing your partner and how they are likely to respond to things, although remember sometimes they will surprise you, and the other part is trial and error for that very reason! Make sure to give your changes at least a few weeks to see if anything changes and also make sure that your can incorporate the changes genuinely (no sarcasm while encouraging him to go out!)