How do you and your spouse handle conflict?

Good listening is about understanding your partner’s needs rather than being focused on your own. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Sitting upright at a table is a good choice because it brings to mind business meetings. Where the aim is to solve a problem. And everyone’s polite.
  • Agree to be honest. There are risks in that, of course, but really it’s not worth being in a relationship where you can’t be completely truthful with one another.

Are you and your spouse forever arguing? Without ever resolving your issues?

You’ve probably developed a habit of misunderstanding and hurting one another. You’re always angry, blaming and criticising.

Or refusing to talk at all. Both of you trying to prove you’re right even when you see sense in what your partner is saying.

Because it’s your emotions driving the quarrel, not the logic of the dispute. Perhaps your body language has become aggressive.

Yelling and forcing yourselves into each other’s personal space. Or maybe the contempt is more subtle, like avoiding eye contact, sneering or rolling your eyes.

Probably you’re also name calling, focusing on each other’s insecurities, and constantly bringing up past mistakes.

There is endless point-scoring, and no attempt to discover the underlying issues and put them right. It doesn’t have to be like this.

The best way to improve the situation is to focus on your overall communication style.

COMMUNICATION STYLE

Start by regularly talking about the good things in your lives together. A few minutes each day are enough, so maybe agree on a shared bedtime, and spend the last half-hour before bed on the sofa together.

Make it the highlight of your day by sharing a favourite snack or drink. No phones, no social media, no TV, no work.

And when you need to talk about hard stuff, don’t ambush your partner. Instead, set a specific time to discuss the matter the next day so you’re both prepared for the conversation.

Try holding serious discussions in the same place so that intimate spaces like your bedroom, sofa and favourite restaurants become argument-free zones.

Sitting upright at a table is a good choice because it brings to mind business meetings. Where the aim is to solve a problem. And everyone’s polite.

OPENNESS

Agree to be honest. There are risks in that, of course, but really it’s not worth being in a relationship where you can’t be completely truthful with one another.

Complete openness exists when you agree not to give each other a hard time about what you hear, or to use it against one another.

Open your body language by turning towards your partner with arms relaxed, making soft eye contact.

Avoid any hint of criticism, sarcasm or defensiveness, listen hard, and try to see things from your partner’s point of view. Chances are you’ll hear things you don’t expect.

Because your background and personality dramatically affect how you see the world. So don’t automatically assume that your partner wants the same things as you.

FIXING THE ISSUE

Good listening is about understanding your partner’s needs rather than being focused on your own.

Try also to see past day-to-day irritations and uncover the fundamental issue behind whatever is making you unhappy.

It’s usually something like the balance of power between you; a lack or loss of trust, or respect, or differing needs for space and independence.

Because once the real issue is on the table, you stand a good chance of fixing it. Once and for all.

[email protected]