Minimizing the Combat Zone in Your Marriage

man woman on beach morguefileWe all have our negative patterns in marriage that may be based on our personality tendencies and our common reactions to one another. I found a recent New York Times article that provided some helpful hints for avoiding the “combat zone” or at least minimizing it.

Counselors teach conflict resolution skills and better communication skills, because they know sometimes the way we react or even phrase something can make a big difference in the outcome of what can become a heated conversation. Conflict isn’t always to be avoided; in fact, it can help bring us closer when used appropriately. So, here are the tips from Bruce Feiler who wrote “Lessons in Domestic Diplomacy” for the NYT:

  1. Beware of the transitions in your day. The times when people are either coming or going are the source of the biggest fights within families, say researchers. For example, getting yourselves and/or your children ready to head out the door, or coming in after a long day of work, wondering what will be for dinner and who will be making it. These are the vulnerable times. The “most highly charged” time of day was between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. So, give one another a bit of space and time and don’t bring up difficult topics until things are calm.
  2. Sit at the same level, with the same posture. This is important, particularly if one partner tends to adopt a “power position” i.e. in a higher chair, standing over the other, or with laced fingertips behind the head and feet up. Higher positions create elevated testosterone, reduced cortisol and increased feelings of superiority.  On the flip side, sometimes a spouse adopts a frequent “lower position” i.e. slumped, slouched, or arms crossed. Instead, sit alongside your spouse in your discussions.
  3. Select your seating surface well. Researchers found when people sit on a soft, cushioned chair, they are more accommodating and generous, while those who sat on a hard wooden chair were more rigid and inflexible.
  4. Go to the balcony. When things begin to escalate, imagine in your mind that you are on a balcony overlooking your interaction, suggests Bill Ury, founder of a Harvard program on peace negotiations. From the “balcony” you can see the macro view, calm yourself down, and see alternatives that you might not see if you didn’t disengage. Often there are other alternatives you haven’t considered. “The goal is to expand the pie before dividing it,” says Ury.
  5. Keep it short. The most important points in an argument are found in the opening minutes. After that, it’s just repetition and escalation. So say what you need to say, then take a short break or walk to prevent the escalation.
  6. Avoid saying “you always” and “you never.” In fact, switch from “you” to “we” so that you don’t sound so accusatory.
  7. Say you’re sorry, and most importantly, take responsibility for your choices/actions, even if you aren’t feeling very sorry during the argument.

What tips do you have to keep your disagreements from creating divisions in your family?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

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3 responses to “Minimizing the Combat Zone in Your Marriage

  1. I am a high drive wife married to a man who is low drive and somewhat ED….I have been pretty unhappy for about 15 years now in our sex life. Frustrated. I try to initiate and he falls asleep or just never gets in the mood….I have been praying for God to restore our sex life and give him more energy and drive, but it hasnt happened in a very long time. My question would be, do I reverse my prayers and stop acting selfish and maybe ask God to make my drive lower? be satisfied with 2 times a month instead of the 2 times a day that i would LOVE!!! I am so upset these days. I am a 45 year old who is trapped in the body of a 20 year old! I know…this is very backwards and probably every mans dream woman…I cant really talk to my girlfriends cuz they are not like me! I hate initiating anymore, because I feel cheated when it doesnt work out. We are both on different work schedules too…I work first shift and he works 2nd….which means we dont see each other except on weekends….so that makes it even harder! Anyone out there in the same position I am????

    • You are not alone. There are books, blogs and resources dedicated to helping the high-drive wife. Working different shifts certainly doesn’t help you. Has he had a medical consultation with his physician? That should be a first step. Low testosterone is one of many possibilities that can be treated.

  2. Great post! Nice tips especially 2 and 8! :) Thanks for sharing your list, so helpful!

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