Every marriage relationship has times of disagreement. While simply disagreeing isn’t a problem, finding effective ways to handle disagreement can be. Things can escalate into something that leaves both parties frustrated, hurt, or unhappy. Without strategies in place to help you communicate effectively in the face of conflict, people can go on for years struggling with communication in marriage because they don’t know how to change things.
Whether you have been struggling with communication in your marriage for a short time or years, it is possible to learn these effective ways to handle disagreement without spiraling into negative places.
Why communication in marriage matters.
The most obvious reason communication in your marriage matters is because of how it makes you and your spouse
feel. When there is tension and struggle it can leave you both feeling several things, ultimately creating a distance that neither person truly wants. These feelings are very real and have an impact on the marriage.
On a spiritual level, when disagreements are handled ineffectively, we are missing out on God’s best for us. The Bible has many examples of how we should interact with one another. One of the most direct instructions on communication is from James:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NIV)
James was writing to the early Christian churches when he penned these words. He spoke to them kindly and with love calling them his dear brothers and sisters, just like we are as fellow believers. He was direct, indicating that this message is for everyone when he described how we should interact with people to avoid anger and dissension.
Learning how to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry is possible. There are things we can do, small changes we can make that will foster the type of loving communication that James describes. The way we communicate with one another matters because it is important to God. It is important for us so we can live the way God desires for us to live.
Ways to handle disagreement effectively.
In the middle of an argument, it is hard to imagine that there is a better way to communicate. That is why it is important to think about changes you can make and talk about them with your spouse when you are not in the middle of a tense discussion or disagreement. As you read through these tips, choose one or two that you and your spouse can talk about and agree to implement to help you both navigate tough subjects and feelings.
Tip 1: Recognize outside factors.
We are never thinking about or feeling just one thing. As complex creatures, we have physical, emotional, and spiritual factors that impact how we think, feel, and interact with others. Before entering into a disagreement think about what is going on inside of you.
Physical factors include anything that impacts your physical body, including your brain:
- In pain
- Too early/late in the day
- Worn out
- No shower
Emotional factors are anything that primarily involves how you feel. These can overlap with physical factors. Some examples include:
Spiritual factors can be harder to identify, but they are just as real. These often manifest in emotional and physical ways, though the impact is deeper:
- Lack of time with God
- Challenging church situation
- Crisis of faith
- Questioning purpose
- Limited time in the Word
- Longing for a mature mentor
- Loss or lack of relationship with believers
- Questioning spirit
These are just some examples of how outside factors affect the way you communicate with your spouse. Considering these and their impact before you have a discussion can prevent spiraling into an argument.
If you’ve already started to disagree, you can even pause and identify what other things might be going on. You may need to stop to recognize that you are impatient because you didn’t get good sleep or that you feel overwhelmed because of a big project at work. Stopping to think can diffuse a situation with your spouse by giving you grace for dealing with things or holding off until a time when you have addressed the outside factor to the best of your ability.
Tip 2: Identify and say how you feel.
Sometimes instead of telling our partner how we feel, we opt to show them. Things like slamming a door, huffing around the house, becoming withdrawn, and rolling your eyes are ways we show other people how we feel without saying a word. While this may offer a small feeling of release, it doesn’t help much to work through a disagreement.
The problem is that we don’t take the time to identify and say how we feel. Simply describing the emotion you are feeling can help open communication less offensively. Before you can tell your partner how you feel you need to identify it. There is power in learning how to identify and state what you feel. And if you know you’re feeling something, but you don’t know what it is, you can say that too.
Whatever you are trying to work through, you will solve the problem faster by stating your feeling than you will by slamming the cabinets or being sarcastic. Give you and your partner the ability to express what you feel without resorting to other ways that require them to guess. Effective communication in marriage requires communicating clearly.
If you notice your partner showing you feelings without saying them, you can simply ask them how they are feeling. Saying something like, “Hey, I noticed you seem upset. Is that how you’re feeling?” Speaking with kindness and gentleness may diffuse those things and make your spouse feel comfortable enough to talk.
Tip 3: Take space.
When things get heated, some people tend to push in, ready to argue the situation to death. Sometimes a better solution is to take a break and give one another a little space so you can come back to the discussion with a clear head. This does not mean you walk away to avoid the subject.
Taking space is a conscious choice to take some time apart for both of you to think calmly and come back to the discussion at a time you agree upon. This is an opportunity to be separate but together.
The key to taking space is communicating how you feel and what your expectation is. Some examples include:
- “I need to calm down before we talk more. I’m going to the other room for ten minutes and then coming back so we can talk again.”
- “Can we pause this conversation? How about if I get dinner ready and we can talk after we eat?”
- “Let’s take a walk and try again.”
Whatever space and time you need to take is good, as long as you communicate so your partner has a chance to understand and agree. If you opt to take space without communicating it can make the problem worse because one person may feel like they are being abandoned or the conversation has been shut down. The key to making this work is to clearly communicate what you are doing, why you’re doing it, and when you will resume the conversation.
Things to remember.
Arguments are inevitable in marriage. You can, however, learn effective ways to handle disagreement and how to argue with wisdom, enabling your relationship to grow. Romans 14:19 reminds us, “So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (CSB) As a believer, you can work to promote peace and build up your spouse, even when you disagree.
Remember, these ways to handle disagreement are not magic. They require practice and working together with a lot of grace as you learn how to handle things in a new healthy way. With this mindset in place, it is possible to have better communication in your marriage.
“Argument”, Courtesy of Budgeron Bach, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Disagreement”, Courtesy of Timur Weber, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Shukhrat Umarov, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Couple Hugging”, Courtesy of Hannah Stevens, Pexels.com, CC0 License