I constantly hear this same question:
“My husband and I are at a point where the only way we know how to communicate is through arguing. It is becoming very upsetting and half the time I do not even understand what we are arguing about. What can I do to prevent these fights from happening and instead communicate effectively without yelling?”
Conflict in long term relationships is almost unavoidable. It is how you respond to these arguments that determine the wellbeing of your relationship. If you do not work together to solve the issues, your loving feeling will fade, and it could potentially lead to divorce. Couples must learn how to use conflict as a learning opportunity that can actually benefit the relationship. When you are in a state of yelling and screaming at your spouse, you are not in your logical, mature mind. You are in an emotional, reactive state that happens instinctively. Your problem-solving abilities are not functioning when you are acting in this way. Couples must force themselves to stop yelling so you can begin to solve the problem rather than escalate it. To stop yourself, separate from each other and calm down. After you are calm, meet together and perform “the bridge.”
The bridge is the space between two people. You must bridge that gap in order to see things from your spouse’s perspective. Without being judgmental, learn about what goes on in their head. This will prevent the yelling and help improve communication. Allow one person to talk first and say everything going through their mind without interruption. Then the other spouse will have their turn. This will permit both spouses to empathize with each other’s feelings.
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Always remember not to interrupt the other person. That is the most important step in the process. Interrupting in this situation usually involves proving a point or proving someone wrong. Neither of those things will make the problem better but will instead embolden the argument all over again causing more yelling.
John Gottman has researched the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. If you experience any of these, your relationship could be in trouble. Every negative interaction can make these four factors more difficult to overcome. Gottman suggests that it takes five positive interactions to conquer one bad one. The less negativity you have in the relationship, the better. By using the bridge technique, actively listening, empathizing with your spouse, and stopping the negativity, you can stop fighting!