All couples fight! There are no perfect couples. All couples disagree and argue. Some handle their disagreements with becoming loud, big and scary. Others move away from each other by withdrawing into silence, leaving the room… or the house.
In his groundbreaking research on healthy marriages, Dr. John Gottman found that couples who avoided communicating their difference of opinion with their spouse (conflict avoidant) were some of the leaset healthy relationships. According to his research, conflict avoidant couples are more likely to end in divorce than couples who argue.
There are differences between couples who do life together forever and those who end their marriage in divorce. Couples who stay together:
- Have fewer fights. They have learned to give each other more grace, assume the best about their spouse’s motives, and accept their spouse’s idiosyncrasies. They communicate using Speaking My Truth and Hearing My Truth skills.
- Have shorter fights. They give their spouse their difference of opinion, seek to understand their spouse’s opinion, search for solutions and move onto other things. They have learned that when one of them is triggered emotionally by an issue or by another that they need to calm down in order to have a conversation to solve the problem. They use their Hard Conversation skills to resolve solvable issues.
- Make and accept movement toward each other. As soon as the fight is over, couples who make it experience a spouse that makes a move toward the other and the other accepts the move toward them.
We have found in our own marriage and in working with couples over the years that it only takes one spouse to make a move toward the other. One of the most important things a spouse can unilaterally do to improve their marriage is to be the first to make a move toward their spouse after an argument. A move toward each other does not mean that you have changed your mind or that you are in agreement with your spouse. It simply means that your love for your spouse is larger and stronger than any one argument.
Some of the ways couples make a move toward each other after an argument include:
- Putting on a smile
- Reaching to hold hands
- Pat or rub on the back (or lower)
- Expressing genuine appreciation
- Acts of kindness like pouring a drink
- Invitation to observe sunset, or something in view
- Taking responsibility for your part
- Saying “I still love you”
- Turning on their favorite music
- Offering to pray together
As important as it is to make the first move, it is just as important to accept any movement toward you received from your spouse. Receiving the move toward you tells your spouse that although we disagree, we are in this love lifelong. It tells your spouse that your marriage is stronger than any one fight and that you are in it for the long haul. It does not mean that you have changed your mind or that you agree.
All couples argue. If you argue with your spouse you are in a normal relationship. Couples who make their marriage work have fewer arguments, the arguments are more brief and they make moves toward each other and accept moves toward each other following the argument.
Try making a move toward your spouse after your next argument and then tell us what happened. Or share what you do that helps move toward your spouse following an argument. You never know, one of your stories may end up in our next book.
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.