5 Ways Happy Couples Deal With Disagreements

Even strong, happy couples argue and disagree about things. No relationship is perfect. But, it’s how couples deal with those disagreements that can make a difference.

Unsurprisingly, people don’t get into relationships looking forward to disagreements, but they’re bound to happen. Whether big or small, knowing how to handle disagreements with your partner can make for a much more secure partnership.

If you’re not sure how to do that, don’t worry! Following are some tried and true methods of how happy couples deal with disagreements.

By putting some of these ideas into practice, you can turn your future arguments into tools for strengthening your relationship.

Let’s take a look at five productive ways couples deal with disagreements.

1. They Take Responsibility for Their Actions

One of the biggest pitfalls of most arguments is one person pointing blame at the other. In some cases, one person will be at fault. But, that doesn’t mean the other person is perfect.

Happy couples take responsibility for their actions.

If you always tell your partner that they are the problem, and don’t accept any responsibility for your part, you’ll constantly hit an emotional brick wall.

Work with your partner and communicate as to what you both could have done better. When couples deal with conflict by taking personal responsibility, the outcome tends to be a more united one.

2. They Get to the Bottom of the Disagreement

When you do have a disagreement with each other, it’s important to focus on squashing the disagreement itself, instead of each other.

It’s far too easy to let a simple argument snowball into something much worse. This tends to happen in the heat of the moment when partners are triggered by each other.

When this happens, you may start thinking about other upsetting things your partner has done. Although irrelevant to the current situation, you may resort to saying things out of anger or spite.

Rather, focus on the argument at hand. Work together to “fight” the argument, instead of fighting each other.

3. They’re Open and Honest

It doesn’t take a relationship expert to know that communication is a key component for happy couples. This isn’t just a silly statement that people throw around. It’s actually a huge part of what makes a relationship work.

Open and honest communication is especially effective when you’re having a disagreement. Understand that your partner can’t read your mind. They may not know exactly why you’re upset or frustrated.

Try to get to a point where you’re comfortable being vulnerable and sharing your thoughts and feelings during a disagreement. If you both do that, it’s likely the argument will be resolved quickly and you can move on.

4. They Make Sacrifices

Not every disagreement needs to come out with a clear “winner.” Instead, focus on compromise and sacrifices.

Disagreements usually start because one person wants something from their partner.  It may be wanting or demanding the other person to either start or stop a behavior.

Instead of expecting a complete change in your partner, meet them halfway with a compromise.

Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices. It’s not always easy to back down from what you want. But, when you think about the bigger picture, you’ll usually see that making a small sacrifice can allow for a stronger relationship in the long run.

5. They Expect Disagreements

Yes, happy couples expect that they’ll argue about certain things. If you purposely try to avoid arguments in your relationship, you could be creating a ticking time bomb.

By avoiding disagreements, you let negative emotions build inside you. Eventually, they’ll have to come out. That results in even bigger arguments often much more damaging to the relationship.

Instead, expect that you’ll have disagreements from time to time. Use the other tips listed here to work through them productively.

As you can see, the way happy couples deal with disagreements isn’t anything too complex. Really, the challenge is putting actionable steps to work for you.

But, by using some of the suggestions here, you can start to turn your disagreements into something that can strengthen your relationship instead of trying to tear it apart.

If you’d like support in living your best relationship, please visit my Couples Counseling page to schedule your free consult call today.

How to Keep Love Alive When the Happily Ever After Fades

We go into marriage with the promise of lasting love and hope for a storybook romance.

It’s a time of excitement and joy about your future life together and the dreams you share.  

Few couples, however, really understand what it takes to make their marriage work. When the honeymoon is over and real life settles in, your differences begin to show in a much more noticeable ways.  

Those differences likely started out so small, so irrelevant, maybe even welcome. But now they are all you can focus on and, perhaps, you wonder, how did we get here?

If you’ve found yourself here, disillusioned and disheartened, but desperate to make your relationship work, there is help. But, this is not for the faint of heart; it requires digging deep, being open to learning, sustained effort, and a willingness to change.  

Dealing With Differences

When differences become more obvious it can be very scary for couples, leaving them to wonder if they married the right person.  Partners tend to use ineffective but well intentioned methods to try to convince each other to see, do, and think it their way.  

Lacking effective skills to manage your differences brings unwanted conflict and heartache. Soon, a pattern begins to develop. The relationship turns into a kind of tug-of-war, each of you trying to preserve what you hold as true.  

Your relationship becomes stuck in a painful cycle of argument and blame.  You love each other but don’t know how to maintain your love and connection as you face these challenges.

How do you handle these differences?  Many couples attempt to make their differences go away by convincing their partner that their way is wrong.  A healthier and more realistic alternative is to work on accepting these differences. Realize your partner is a separate person, with individual thoughts, feelings and beliefs. If those are different than yours, it doesn’t make them bad or wrong; it’s just different.  Get curious, try to refrain from a defensive response and try to understand your partner’s perspective by asking questions.  

Sustain Love and Connection

A concept I’ve found helpful in my work with couples is remembering that relationships don’t just happen—they are created.  Yes, relationships are hard work!  When “happily ever after” fades (and it will), the challenge is to remain loving and giving even when you don’t feel like it.  

Like growing a garden, your relationship needs care, consideration, and attention.

If you ignore or neglect your garden it will wilt and, eventually, die. The same is true of your relationships. Ongoing efforts to nourish and nurture your relationship are key to maintaining a loving connection to your partner.

Some simple ways to nurture your relationship include showing or expressing appreciation/gratitude, carving out time to be together, daily rituals of connection such as a kiss goodbye, and a warm greeting at the end of the day.  

Looking Inward

When things get tough in your relationship it’s easy to fall into a pattern of criticism and blame. Blaming each other for not getting your needs met is a common dynamic in couples. This, unfortunately, does not lead to the change you desire.  

Real change starts with you. Remember, the only person you have control over is yourself. Looking at yourself and your contribution to the problems in the relationship is far more challenging to do, but it is key to creating a healthy, sustainable relationship.

Instead of focusing on your partner’s shortcomings, ask yourself, “Am I being the kind of partner I aspire to be?”  If not, then what do I need to do to change that? Instead of focusing on what you’re not getting, shift your mindset to ask yourself, “How can I give to my partner in a loving, kind way?” Beginning with self-change will lead to greater growth individually and relationally.

Yes, the happily ever after fades, but it doesn’t mean you married the wrong person. The newness and intense excitement of any relationship fades. It’s a natural developmental process the relationship moves through over time.

The intense feeling of being “in love” develops into a mature love.  A love that is not just a feeling but one that requires doing and giving even when it’s not convenient. Feelings come and go, but to sustain real love you must be active in doing loving things for your relationship to strengthen and grow.

5 Tips to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

The most common complaint couples have when they come to therapy is by far the same.

We can’t communicate!

The truth is, communication is not easy. Repeatedly engaging in unhelpful and ineffective communication patterns hurts relationships. Partners feel unheard, misunderstood, and frustrated. The problem is, most couples don’t know how to do it differently. There is good news! Communication skills can be easily learned.

So how can you communicate more effectively in your relationship?

Here are five strategies you can start using today to improve communication.

Listen

Of course, I’m listening, you might think to yourself. But are you truly listening? Active listening requires you to focus on what the speaker is saying. In couple’s relationships listening to one another is often taken for granted. We listen to respond rather than listen to understand.

Although you think you are listening to your partner in a heated discussion, what you are likely doing is preparing your response. Take the time to listen to what is being said. Ask questions to get more information so you can fully understand your partner’s experience.

Stick to one topic

It’s not uncommon for conversations about hot button topics to get derailed. What may start as a discussion about one thing quickly turns into a battle ground of all your past grievances about your partner. The focus of your original conversation is lost when partners drudge up a laundry list of past hurts. Then nothing gets solved. Stick to the topic at hand. Discuss one subject at a time so you are clear about your purpose and you are able to resolve the problem.

Manage your reaction

How do you respond to your partner when you hear something you don’t agree with or is difficult to hear? Do you become defensive, yell, whine or blame? When you lose your cool and let emotions get out of control, your point is lost. The focus is now on your negative reaction. I’m not saying this is easy, especially when the emotional brain is activated. But the more you manage your emotional reactions, the better chance you have of reaching your desired outcome.

Respect one another

While you may be tempted to hit below the belt in a heated argument, it will only inflict anguish on your relationship. These hurts can have lasting effects long after the argument passes. If you haven’t already, make an agreement with your partner to refrain from name calling or character assassination regardless of the disagreement. Respect for your partner and also self-respect will go a long way to preserve good will in your relationship.

Assert yourself

Sometimes people confuse being assertive with being pushy or aggressive. But, really, assertiveness is about expressing yourself in a respectful and direct way. Whereas being aggressive is harsh and hurtful. Being assertive in your relationship allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, wants, and desires openly and honestly to your partner. It is the best way to negotiate differences in your relationship so everyone wins.

 

Communication creates the connection all couples crave. It is the key to a successful relationship. Effective communication skills don’t come naturally. It takes practice.

I encourage you to pick one area you know you could improve. Make these changes for a week and notice the improvement you see in your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

Marriage Counseling: Keys to Successful Sessions

4 Keys to Get the Most From Your Couples Counseling

Marriage counseling is an investment in your most important relationship. There’s a lot at stake, and you’ll want to get the most you can from it.

If this is your first time seeking marriage counseling you might not know what to expect or how the process works. Or perhaps you’ve had counseling before and found you didn’t get anything out of it.

These are my “insider” tips to help you get the most out of couples counseling.

Prepare for the session.

Preparing for the session?  How do I do that, you wonder? Think of each session as an important meeting. You most likely wouldn’t show up to an important business meeting without an agenda. I often see couples come to counseling sessions with nothing to talk about. Just showing up is not enough. Instead, know what you’d like to get out of the session. Think to yourself, “At the end of today’s session what will I be happy that we talked about?” Before each session, reflect on your goals and objectives for being in therapy.  Knowing your purpose will give the session a clear direction, goal, and will help you know if progress is being made.

Identify goals for yourself rather than for your partner.

It’s common for couples to come to marriage counseling with hopes of changing their partner, believing that once the partner makes the necessary changes things will be better. The truth is, you get the best results when each person recognizes their contribution to the problems and works to create change.  You can influence your partner, but you cannot change them. The only person you can change is yourself. Couples therapy will challenge you to think about how you aspire to be as a partner to bring about positive change in your relationship.

Keep realistic expectations.

According to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. It’s natural that you want relief from your relationship pain but therapy is not a quick fix. Especially if your marriage problems have been going on for years. Expecting significant change to happen in a few weeks is not realistic. Creating real, lasting change will take time and effort. Having realistic expectations will prevent disappointment and help keep you focused and motivated. It’s also important to have realistic expectations of the therapist. Therapists are the guide or facilitator of change but can only help to the extent that the client is willing to be active in the process.

Work outside the session.

Creating change in your relationship requires a commitment to more than just an hour a week in the office. Practicing what you learned in your session in your daily lives is essential to creating new relationship skills. Like any new skill, if you practice, you will get better at it. Sure, it can feel awkward at first and you won’t always do it, but if you’re making the effort to do something different, that’s what matters.

Homework, related to your relationship goals, is determined with your input and agreement at the end of each session. If need be, keep a notebook and write down the important points so you can refer to what you committed to work on.

Seeking couples counseling is not easy and can be intimidating for anyone unfamiliar with the process. These tips are meant to give you an idea of how to get the most benefit from therapy.  If you are not making progress or not getting what you thought you would, don’t be afraid to talk to your therapist about this.