Arguments can be productive to a marriage when they are done right. When they aren’t done right, they can damage the marriage. Learning to evaluate your arguments and your role in them can help you establish a plan to make them more productive.
During an argument, do either of you end up feeling hurt? If so, it’s important to evaluate the reason. It may be an obvious reason such as one of you says outright hurtful things. If so, anger management and conflict resolution skills can help. It may be a more subtle reason, such as not feeling heard or feeling like your partner doesn’t care about your feelings. If this is the case, it is important to learn how to be more respectful to one another and how to validate each other’s feelings.
Does one person try to win? In destructive arguments, one person or both people often feel the need to be right. This makes it impossible to compromise.
Does one of you create a list of unreasonable demands? Do you tend to give your partner ultimatums? This leads to defensive reactions and doesn’t invite open conversations. Making demands of your partner isn’t likely to lead to positive results. If you do offer an ultimatum, make sure it is carefully thought out and not said in the heat of an argument. For example, saying, “If you drink again, I will leave,” shouldn’t be a threat that is made regularly during arguments.
Arguments should be a vehicle for change and should offer both partners an opportunity to discuss feelings, concerns, and wants. Successful arguments leave both people feeling at least somewhat satisfied and not feeling like one person “won.”
When you and your partner are calm, a conversation about how you handle disagreements can be very helpful. Evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Discuss what steps you are willing to take to make positive change. If you and your partner are having difficulty with making your arguments productive, consider therapy. Couples counseling can help you learn conflict resolution skills and strategies to help you compromise.