I see so many relationships around me where I am taken aback by the way they treat one another. I find myself thinking “They’re really married?” regularly whenever I see them interact- and many of them end up divorced by the end of the year.
Most of it, I have found, has to do with how they talk to one another- and by that, I mean that they are often arguing regularly, and usually violently. As a result, I often judge the happiness and fulfillment of a couple predominantly based on how often they argue or fight with one another, how intense those fights are, and what they are about.
I can proudly say, however, that my Husband and I have never done this.
Do not get me wrong… My Husband and I have had our own problems- most of these, though, have been misunderstandings and communication errors. In the two years we have been together we have had absolutely no arguments, however; we have never fought about finances, household duties, or any number of topics which appear on lists like “top 10 reasons couples fight” and “top 10 reasons couples get divorced”. We don’t even argue.
When I tell people this I am always met with incredulous looks. According to the population at large, apparently every couple argues. Not arguing is either considered abnormal, unhealthy, or both. So I am told that it will change; we are still in the “Honeymoon Phase” and eventually the vacation will be over. We will be arguing before I can even blink.
But it doesn’t have to be like that; on my Wedding Day, my Mother gave us a card containing the keys to our new house- a wedding gift from them. But that card also contained the most valuable relationship advice I have ever received:
Anna and Luke, always remember: Without love you have nothing. Never go to bed mad, and never leave the other without a kiss. Love Mom and Dad
My parents have been married for around 27 years now. Their marriage is far from perfect, and honestly they could stand to take their own advice as their marriage moves forward. Still, though, it is solid advice that my Husband and I have heeded.
Yet it is only one of several important parts that make up a good marriage and pave the road to one that is argument free. The obvious point of Actively Listening to your spouse aside, others I believe are important are open and honest communication, respect for your Spouse, taking responsibility (for emotions, thoughts, actions, and more), a willingness to apologize and compromise when necessary, and a drive to resolve conflict quickly when it occurs.
Respecting your Spouse
Respect is a word that is thrown around a lot, but if you ask what “respecting your spouse” means, hardly anyone can give you a cohesive answer. Not even the dictionary helps, and it is often the first place I turn to when I need an answer to the meaning of anything; simply put, few people are sure of its meaning or how to best put it into practice concerning relationships.
To some it means always deferring to their Spouse… But an element of respect that I think is more important and true to what “Respect” actually means is the word consideration.
My Husband and I have an Egalitarian marriage despite being Traditionalists, and consideration is a huge part of its success. The fact is that when one party feels dismissed, shut out, or like their viewpoints do not matter, it breeds conflict and resentment. So to me, respecting my Husband means not dismissing him; having consideration for his words, his viewpoints, his wants, interests, desires, and more. They are, after all, just as important as my own- especially as my Spouse.
This means that- when making decisions or working through conflict that arises- no person’s viewpoint is any more important than the others’. Both are taken into consideration and weighed equally and fairly.
I am much more of a Chatterbox than my Husband is, but we are both extremely communicative people- and we both believe that communication must be honest and open in order to be effective; we have a relationship that is built on openness first and foremost and make a dedicated effort to talk to one another regularly.
It has been like this since the day we began talking on OKCupid, well before we even considered dating. We were open about our interests, our passions, our histories, and where we were at in our lives. On our first date, even, we discussed my interest in BDSM, our sexual pasts, our abusive partners, our faults, and more. Even now, we are honest about our emotions, the state of our mental health, our physical health, activities, and every conceivable thing under the sun- and as a result we are always in awe of how much we learn about one another daily.
Ultimately we simply don’t hide things from one another, no matter what it is or how insignificant we feel it could be. We have no reason to, especially if we have any hope of spending our lives together- and this trend has continued into our Marriage. It has been the saving grace of what few misunderstandings we have had during the course of our relationship: the willingness to not only communicate in the first place, but to do so honestly and openly with one another.
Speaking of open and honest communication, there are two very important keys to its success and they greatly revolve around what you do (or do not) bring up to your Spouse.
When we express communicate with our spouse- especially when it comes to things that upset us- it means we are taking responsibility for having them; we are accepting them, owning them, and recognizing that they are valid. Because they are.
Taking responsibility for them on our part and voicing them to our Spouse also gives the other person the opportunity to take responsibility for being the cause of them; it allots them the opportunity to correct their behavior, apologize, or any number of other things meant to resolve the conflict that they created.
Without taking responsibility in both of these ways, true conflict resolution can never really occur- especially not if there are feelings of betrayal, anger or upset, or other negative emotions in the mix.
Willingness to Apologize
My Husband and I are both chronic overapologizers, but it works. Sometimes we apologize for things we do not need to- such as being sick or depressed- but it means that we are also more willing to apologize when we have hurt the others’ feelings or said something poorly.
An integral part of both respecting your Spouse and taking responsibility means being wiling to apologize to them; apologizing should be the first thing you do in any conflict resolution, actually. There is simply no way to resolve a conflict without apologizing for whatever negative action or words caused it- and if you think that you have resolved a conflict without apologizing, chances are that you actually haven’t.
Willingness to Compromise
You may want to decorate the house one way, and your spouse may want to decorate it another. Ultimately conflict may arise in even trivial situations like this when both parties want different things.
But you can have your cake and eat it too- it’s just that sometimes you may only be able to have a piece or two… And that is what compromise means; Compromise is finding a solution to a problem which benefits both parties when what they want is in conflict with the wants of the other person, and couples have to be willing to make compromises when it is clear that you cannot have both options proposed.
For instance, in the above example the compromise may be that you decorate the Kitchen, your spouse decorates the livingroom, and you both decide together how to best decorate the bathroom and bedroom. This is what my Husband and I did earlier this year when renovating our new home, and it worked out wonderfully. Both of us are very happy with how the house turned out, and it is an environment that we can both enjoy. If it were not, we may continue to have conflict over it which could be detrimental to our marriage and the environment we want to build for ourselves within our home.
Quick Conflict Resolution
We deal with things quickly when they arise, and this really is key. Allowing things to sit and fester only adds more heat to the fire, risking an argument- which neither of us want.
Since most of our misunderstandings have to do with tonality or bad phrasing, we tend follow a simple rule of “Rewind and Rephrase”; stop, collect your thoughts, rephrase it if possible, and explain them. If we need a bit of time, though, we are quick to inform the other that we need that time before we can discuss it further- either due to hurt feelings, or a need to collect and process our thoughts.
Within minutes of the conflict, though, we have usually apologized to one another, better articulated our viewpoints, and have settled the issue.
The result is that my Husband and I have never argued in the three years our relationship has spanned so far- and I certainly look forward to many more years of healthy communication and zero arguments with him.