Yes, we all go through marriage fights. Arguments are part of life for everybody – Nelson Mandela may have been saintly in much of what he did, but he obviously had plenty of falling-outs with Winnie, for one. So it’s hardly surprising that less tolerant and patient people will have their differences too.
Everybody shouts and raves at their partner at some point, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the marriage is in tatters.
I don’t claim to be a marriage counselor – my strength, as a civil celebrant, lies in getting the process underway by marrying couples. I also have 14 years of marriage under my belt, although I realise that that does not make me an expert. However, by virtue of my common sense and experience, I would like to propose a few strategies that might prove beneficial.
Why are you arguing?
This is an important question to work on. There may, of course, be many reasons for a quarrel, but bear in mind that the real reason for a squabble may be concealed. It might really be about being taken for granted, whereas the superficial argument might be about a forgotten item on a shopping list, say.
Anybody can miss something when shopping (even if reminded about it before leaving the house). It was unlikely to be deliberate. In itself, it is trivial. It’s certainly not a cause for divorce. Obviously, the way the matter is resolved may be significant (does the ‘guilty party’ apologise and/or try to make amends or do they mock?).
If the matter is not taken seriously by one party, while the other is obviously really upset, then lack of respect can become an issue, which is potentially serious.
How do you argue?
If it comes to an argument, try not to make accusations and try not to be defensive. It is better to find out what is behind the other person’s displeasure. Listen, try not to interrupt, and then respond. Do so calmly and without causing (further) offence.
Be prepared to accept at least part of the blame. There will be wrong on your side (as well as right). Admit it. If you can compromise and even negotiate (“I’ll take over the ironing, if you do the shopping”), then there’s every chance you can reconcile and go on from there.
I hear mixed opinions about going to sleep while still angry. My feeling is that, although ‘sleeping on it’ means you can return the next day in a calm and collected way, which may be more effective, I prefer resolving the matter then and there, so that I don’t go to bed angry and unable to sleep, and wake up even grumpier and more resentful.
Whatever happens, I hope that at the end, you can hug and make up (the hug is very important).
Working at relationships is a skill. It’s well worth doing, but not the easiest thing in the world. I hope you don’t need this article, but, if you do, I hope that this helps.
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.