Aug 17

Friend Friday ~ How to Fight Productively with Your Spouse

For this week’s Friend Friday,  I am blessed to have Mary Beth with us from New Life Steward. I love to follow her in her corner! Thank you Mary Beth for sharing with us today!

If you’re interested in being featured in Friend Friday, please send me an email @ simplyhelpinghim(at)gmail(dot)com
scream and shoutI am sitting in the passenger’s seat. Seething. I am so angry I think may head may explode. The child in me wants to scream and flail my arms and legs and hit something. Maybe him.

I take some deep breaths. Try to calm myself down. Whisper a prayer under my breath. Tell myself to just let it go.

But I can’t. Or I won’t.

Finally, in my most “nice” voice I say, “I really can’t believe you just did that.”

His response is fast, “Well you do it all the time.”

Mine is even faster, “Don’t flip this around on me. This is about YOU!”

And so it begins. Another argument in which no one wants to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing. Everyone is on the defensive. Nothing gets accomplished or solved. We just yell until we are exhausted and then give up.

Sweeping it under the rug only to trip over it later.

If you’ve been married for long, I imagine this scene is not unfamiliar to you. I like to tell myself that we fight passionately because we love passionately. If we didn’t care about each other, we wouldn’t bother.

But that’s not an excuse to continue in this crazy cycle as Emerson Eggerichs (affiliate link) calls it. So based on my experience as a Marriage and Family Counselor and my own marriage, I give you:

5 Ways to Argue Productively with Your Spouse:

1. Call a Time Out. When things get heated, call a time out. Literally, just say the words, “I need a time-out”. Discuss this strategy ahead of time, so that your partner isn’t caught off guard by it. Sometimes, everyone needs a little time to calm down and figure out what they really think and feel. But you can’t just stop there…

2. Schedule a time to continue the argument. Once you call the time-out, you need to determine the time and place to continue the discussion. You will also want to designate who will initiate the discussion. There is nothing worse than both of you sitting in opposite rooms ready to talk but secretly seething because the other hasn’t come to get you.

3. Set boundaries for the argument. Establish what you will be discussing. This is not the time to pull out every problem you have. Determine what the crux of the argument was about and seek to discuss that first.

4. Seek understanding before problem solving. Follow these steps:

  • Establish a “speaker” and a “listener”
  • The speaker has the “floor” (choose a literal object), and speaks in small chunks to make his/her opinion known.
  • The listener reflects, or restates in his/her own words, what the speaker has said. NO rebuttles. NO defense. Your goal is to understand your partner. So LISTEN!
  • The speaker continues until he/she feels heard and understood. Then switch roles.
  • Repeat as many times as necessary for everyone to feel heard and understood.
Often, this step will resolve whatever disagreement there was as each individual seeks to understand their spouse’s point of view. If not, proceed to…

5. Problem Solve. After taking time to fully understand each other, you are now ready to problem solve. Spend some time in prayer together seeking the Lord’s wisdom. Brainstorm possible solutions. Test solutions. Then come back together and evaluate what worked best.

To read more about these suggestions in addition to more great tips for your marriage, check out A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage (affiliate link) by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, and Milt Bryan.

Have you found a way to argue productively in your marriage? Please share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys

My first love is Jesus Christ followed quickly by my husband and my son. I am now a stay at home mom, writer, and blogger at New Life Steward. My career was first in teaching and then in Marriage and Family Counseling. Living in a small, Southern town in Mississippi, we enjoy SEC football, walking around barefoot, and playing outside. A day to myself would be spent napping, blogging, and reading with a bit of reality TV mixed in! Please come chat with me on Twitter!



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  1. Diane

    Excellent article. Exceptional advice! I’m going to alert my children to this post, with your permission. I think it’s a must-read for everyone! thank you for sharing it on NOBH!
    Diane recently posted..RememberingMy Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      I’m glad that you found the advice helpful! 🙂 I’m blessed to have great blogger friends to share here with me! 🙂 Blessings!

  2. A Little R & R

    Excellent article! I am so glad you linked this one up!!! Blessings friend!
    A Little R & R recently posted..5 Ways I Am Learning To Deal With StressMy Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      It is a great article! I’m so blessed to have y’all guest posting for me! 🙂

  3. nicholl

    wow, this is wonderful!!

    Have a wonderful week! Stop by nichollvincent.blogspot.com and say hello! 🙂

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Yes it is! I’m so thankful Mary Beth was willing to share here 🙂 Blessings!

  4. Kimberly Bradley

    Great advice! Love your site….found you at Aloha Friday Hop! Would love for you to follow me back! Blessings, Kimberly
    Kimberly Bradley recently posted..Am I supposed to be a Mommy?My Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Thanks for stoppin by! 🙂 I will swing by your corner too! 🙂 Blessings!

  5. Renee C.

    Aloha! Visiting from the Aloha Hop.

    Great article. These are great tips. Once you have children, it gets really tricky when you start arguing in front of the children (especially if it’s about the children). On the one hand, it’s important to model good behaviour. We model that it’s ok to disagree (respectfully), but our policy is to not argue in front of the children. Sometimes a timeout is the only option available! But then it’s important to make sure you revisit the issue and not just forget about it. Thanks for the great read.

    Renee @ http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com
    Renee C. recently posted..Book Blogger Feature & Follow Blog Hop #2My Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      So very true, it gets complicated with kiddos around. We are always sure to explain when we are having a disagreement when the kiddos think we’re “fighting”. It is very important to “heatedly” discuss things when they are not around. Thank you for stoppin by! Blessings!

  6. Cassandra from 'Renaissance Woman

    Very good information for handling a sensitive situation.

    Company Girl visiting from Rachel Ann’s Home Sanctuary.

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Isn’t it? Thank you for stoppin by! Blessings!

  7. Jenni Mullinix

    Great tips! This is definitely something we’ve been working on more since having our daughter.
    Jenni Mullinix recently posted..Decorating on a Dime: Frugal Ways to Decorate Your HomeMy Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Isn’t it amazing how much of our lives our children change? 🙂 Blessings!

  8. Mindy @ New Equus - A New Creation

    Mary Beth, these are great rules to follow. I’m glad to know that I”m not alone in “the child in me wants to scream and flail my arms and legs and hit something. Maybe him.” Thanks for sharing!
    Mindy @ New Equus – A New Creation recently posted..A child like faith.My Profile

    1. Mary Beth

      You’re definitely not alone!
      Mary Beth recently posted..Five Minute Friday: StretchMy Profile

    2. simplyhelpinghim

      You aren’t alone that’s for sure 😉

  9. Joe Pote

    Excellent tips, Mary Beth! Not always easy to follow, in the heat of the moment, but good when we can.

    In my experience, the “set boundaries for the discussion” can be very difficult. Often, the heart of the issue is that we are not arguing about the same core subject, but are dealing with two separate triggers. It sometimes takes a bit of stumbling around and give-and-take to get it all out so we can figure out the primary issues.

    Thanks for the wise advice!
    Joe Pote recently posted..Blog Birthday BlessingsMy Profile

    1. Mary Beth

      That is so true. Sometimes it might even take two separate discussions. One to deal with husband’s issue/trigger and one to deal with wife’s. Its beneficial for one person to feel like to focus is on them and also keeps the other (hopefully) from defending or pushing their own agenda since they know their time will come.
      Mary Beth recently posted..Five Minute Friday: StretchMy Profile

    2. simplyhelpinghim

      Yes, setting boundaries can be difficult, but so worth it! Thank you for stoppin by! Blessings!

  10. Steph

    The time out strategy has worked well for us. It drives me crazy because I always want to solve everything right away but sometimes my husband needs some more time. It’s been important for me to learn to respect that.

    We also practice putting the target on the wall. We remember that we’re on the same team so instead of shooting arrows at each other’s chest, we put the target on the wall and shoot arrows at our problem together.
    Steph recently posted..Free Play in ActionMy Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      I love the target on the wall picture! That is great! Thank you for sharing and for stoppin by! Blessings!

    2. Mary Beth

      I am like you. I want to solve it right then! My husband is a thinker, so he needs time too! That’s hard for me!
      Mary Beth recently posted..Five Minute Friday: StretchMy Profile

  11. Lori

    These are excellent, clearly designed steps to productive conflict resolution. I especially like the idea of calling a time out (with advance permission), because sometimes if we have a few moments to evaluate our feelings, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may realize that some issues never even need to be discussed. Kind of like settling out of court:) I’m visiting from Be Not Weary, http://www.lorihatcher.com, and so glad I did!
    Lori recently posted..When Satan has you by the legMy Profile

    1. Mary Beth

      You are so right Lori! Sometimes we find it’s just a heat of the moment thing, and not a big deal once we calm down! My only suggestion would be to still come back together and say that. You never know if the other person agrees or not.
      Mary Beth recently posted..Five Minute Friday: StretchMy Profile

    2. simplyhelpinghim

      Yes, sometimes it is best to leave things in the Lord’s hands. Thank you for stoppin by! Blessings!

  12. Mary Beth

    Thanks for sharing your space with me!
    Mary Beth recently posted..Five Minute Friday: StretchMy Profile

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Absolutely! Anytime my friend! Thank you for sharing today! Blessings!

  1. 5 Strategies for Arguing with your Spouse - New Life Steward

    […] me over at Simply Helping Him as I talk about arguing productively with your spouse. We by no means have it together, but these […]

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