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If you’ve been married for years and frequent arguments and flare ups between you and your spouse are making it seem like you are incompatible, don’t let yourself indulge in this short-sided assumption. Learning the difference between incompatibility and unwillingness to compromise can save your marriage. Interested in learning how to turn conflicts into opportunities? We can help.

At The Marriage Restoration Project, we’ve developed a two-day intensive marriage retreat wherein couples learn to communicate more effectively, learn each other’s triggers, and when it’s time to take a step back so that you both calm down and don’t let things escalate out of control. Continue reading to learn more about our immersive Imago relationship therapy-focused marriage retreats offered online and in-person at locations across the United States and Costa Rica.

How to Turn Disagreements into Opportunities & Build a Stronger Bond

According to a study by John Gottman who developed the Imago communication method couples disagree with one another 69% of the time. It’s completely normal. The way we handle the conflict is what makes or breaks a relationship. Anytime we experience a disagreement with our husband or wives we have a choice; are you going to listen to their opinions and respect them or are you going to start an argument that has no right or wrong answer?

When You Have a Setback, Attempt Relationship Repairs

We’re human. We all make mistakes. The most important thing to take away from any setbacks in your progress is to learn from them and attempt repairs to right a wrong. One snide remark or insult can set you back 3 times as much as you’ve progressed, so ensure you issue a heartfelt apology and show your partner that you are sorry by correcting negative behavior.

It’s equally important for you to notice when your partner makes repair attempts. Channel the art of listening and give your partner words of affirmation when they demonstrate any attempts to repair after a disagreement or argument.

Recognizing an escalation is also key. Say things like “I feel like we’re getting off-topic and need to take a timeout” when you suspect an impending argument. Try using I statements instead of you statements such as…

  • “I’ve never heard that perspective before, how interesting.”
  • “I am starting to get pretty upset, can we come back to this later so I can have some time to calm down?”
  • “I hear that you feel (x, y, z), what can I do differently, so you don’t feel x, y, or z?”
  • “I don’t feel like we are in a good position to discuss this right now, but I know how important it is to you. Can we schedule a time to revisit this topic together?”

Learn to Compromise & Pick Your Battles

The art of communication is largely governed by one’s ability to listen and really hear the message someone is trying to convey to them.


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If your husband or wife is talking to you and you are vaguely listening, or more waiting for your chance to speak so you can disagree, stop. This is a toxic pattern that has no end in sight. Does it really matter that they have a different opinion or view? 99.9% of the time it is not worth having a huge fight.

How to Embrace Conflict & Communicate Healthily

While emotional flexibility is important for couples experiencing toxic arguments, anticipating triggers can also help you both avoid escalation. Since you are more likely to disagree then not, why let it turn into an unhealthy argument that drives you apart? Learning your spouse’s triggers can help you identify situations in which it is best to back off.

It’s also important for them to understand and recognize your triggers. However, knowing our own triggers and expressing openly when we feel triggered is equally important to avoid unhealthy dialogue.

Reasons for Divorce

Below are statistical findings from a 2014 study1 outlining reasons for divorce.

“Overall, the results indicate that the most often cited reasons for divorce at the individual level were lack of commitment (75.0%), infidelity (59.6%), and too much conflict and arguing (57.7%), followed by marrying too young (45.1%), financial problems (36.7%), substance abuse (34.6%), and domestic violence (23.5%).”

— By Scott SB, Rhoades GK, Stanley SM, Allen ES, Markman HJ

According to the study communication problems like too much relationship conflict and arguing are listed as the third highest cause of divorce behind lack of commitment and infidelity. This is important to note because the tendency to blame relationship problems on incompatibility demonstrates a lack of commitment to your marriage. When you don’t take responsibility for your own action or inaction and instead make excuses as to why your relationship is unhealthy, you both lose.

Citations

  1. Scott SB, Rhoades GK, Stanley SM, Allen ES, Markman HJ. Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education. Couple Family Psychol. 2013 Jun;2(2):131-145. doi: 10.1037/a0032025. PMID: 24818068; PMCID: PMC4012696 retrieved Dec 19, 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/

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