Think about replaying your last big argument/fight with your partner. Describe what you see both partners doing and/or saying. Does this type of behavior remind you of another couple, maybe friends, parents, siblings, co-workers, etc.? The way that you converse with your partner during a highly conflictual interaction may resemble something that you are too familiar with. It is likely because that is what was modeled for you and it may have been normalized. Think back during your childhood experiences, what did you witness your parents saying or doing while they were arguing? How did they manage conflicts? Generational patterns are carried out…is this happening to you? If so, there is good news, you can break that pattern. The first step is to recognize it, then become aware of it when it happens in your relationship, finally begin to make changes in the way you are dialoguing with your partner.
St. James depicts is clearly in his passage, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” James 1-19. To engage in a healthy dialogue, remember that you are speaking to the one you love and chose to be your life partner. Take time to think about how you want to express a negative emotion without blaming your partner, rather complain about a behavior with a positive suggestion. Listen to your partner as they express their thoughts and emotions. Validate what your partner is feeling, because feelings are real. If you feel that you are beginning to lose control of the conversation, ask for a break. Take time to self-soothe and then come back to the conversation using a soft start-up. Listen to your tone and adjust it if needed.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary education, that it may impart grace to the hearers” Ephesians 4:29. The words that are used during a conversation can either improve or damage your relationship. Once words are released out of your mouth, it is impossible to take it back. Words can be hurtful, therefore use kind words to express your thoughts. If you feel defensive when your partner is talking to you about a situation, it probably means that it’s too difficult to admit some truth to what they are saying. Research studies have shown that we are all responsible for at least 30% of what is happening or being said in a conversation. Take accountability and admit when you fell short.
Use repair attempts when you feel things have gotten out of control during a conversation. Admit when you are wrong and say “I am sorry” or “I didn’t mean it that way”. Accept influence by saying “Yes, that makes sense, I agree with you”. Understand your partner’s perspective recognizing that you do not necessarily have to agree with their viewpoint. It’s healthy to have opposite opinions so embrace each other’s differences. Always keep in mind that you chose each other for life and want to have healthy conversations. Bring things up that cause you both to laugh. Laughter is a great way to lighten the mood when things get difficult to talk through.