Q. My husband and I fight every day. He criticizes nearly everything I do. I used to ignore this but I'm tired of being put down all the time so I argue back. Now that I defend myself things are worse between us. I'm sick of his criticism and sick of giving in to him. I know we need counseling but I doubt he would go. What else can I do to stop repetitive arguments? I really want my marriage to work out.
A. Your marriage sounds very painful but not hopeless. Your willingness to work on your side of things and your commitment to your marriage are factors that will help you stop repetitive arguments in your marriage. I’m listing problem solving guide lines for you to use in changing things. These are not easy but they do work.
1. Don’t defend yourself. When your husband criticizes or verbally attacks you don't defend yourself, don't make excuses and don't counter attack. It takes two to argue. Even if your husband’s accusation is grossly unfair or unreasonable, remain calm. Your job is to listen to what he is upset about and why. Listening to your husband and understanding his viewpoint does not mean you agree with it. Nor does it mean you’re giving in.
2. Look for specific complaints. Clarify exactly what it is you have done or not done that has upset your husband. This may take some persistence if he is making global statements such as "You never keep your promises" or "You're always so messy." Ask for specific examples. It is much easier to deal with a specific complaint than a global one.
3. Summarize. Tell your husband what you understand are his complaints and ask if you have understood correctly. If not, ask him to clarify further. Summarize your husband’s position again. Repeat this process until your husband indicates you have understood. Even without a solution to the issue, arguing diminishes when we feel we are understood.
4. Find solutions. Ask your husband for ideas about what you can do about this specific problem. Suggest possible solutions that are acceptable to you. It doesn't work to "give-in" in a marriage but "giving" is necessary. There is a difference.
5. Meet Regularly to Problem Solve. Suggest to your husband that you set aside a specific time on a regular basis to discuss problems. Be sure to pick a time for these problem solving sessions when you can talk freely. Hire a babysitter if necessary. Agree on what you will discuss ahead of time or at the beginning of each session. Start with just one or two problems and stick to these issues. Take turns speaking and listening. I hope these problem solving guidelines help you. In a few weeks I’ll post information on a Problem Solving Format that can help. Counseling may be necessary in order to stop repetitive arguments between you and your husband.
“Change your ways. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.” Romans 15:5 NLT