Last week with the election just days away we talked about not letting our differences divide us. How we should be okay with us all being different and to learn to accept our partners for who they are and honor their differences.
The election itself is over, but how did you do? Did you honor one another? Or did the conflict go a different direction?
When couples don’t see eye to eye on a particular issue, it is so easy to fall into the trap of using harmful words and attitudes to get their point across. Don’t believe us? Just think of all the times you’ve said these things to your spouse.
Harmful Words We Say!
“You are so incredibly short-sided!” “Only an idiot would believe those lies.” “Oh, grow up!”
“I don’t have a problem. You’re just uptight.” “I’m to blame?! Well, what about you?!”
Geez — those are fightin’ words! When you see those phrases written down on paper, it kind of makes you want to go apologize right now, right? It’s okay — you’re not alone. Even in the best of relationships and marriages, couples can end up saying some pretty mean things in the heat of the moment.
Half the time, we don’t even mean them. But we use such hurtful words and cop poor attitudes so often that you can’t blame the other person for believing you feel that way. This is especially true now as we get through another Presidential election. There’s no sugarcoating that this is an important time for our country. More and more clients we see are split between party lines and don’t know how to handle those differences positively instead of negatively.
To continue last week’s conversation on this very issue, let’s take a look at three harmful words and attitudes that we’re all guilty of sometimes and come up with a few realistic solutions so we can have a safe and connected marriage.
“A tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to
break a heart. So be careful with your words.”
Top 3 Hateful Things
As John Gottman tells us, the way a discussion begins in the first three minutes determines everything in almost 95% of cases. Criticism is a perfect example. This is when we are stating our complaints as a defect in our partner’s personality. In other words, we are saying there’s something wrong with them — we’re giving them negative traits that they likely do not possess. Complaints that start with “you always” or “you never” are never great things to say to your spouse — or anyone, for that matter.
“You always find a way to mess things up.”
So what is the antidote? If you want to have a positive conversation every time, use a soft start! Talk about your own feelings rather than jump into attack mode or criticisms. Express positive needs instead of flying off the handle. A positive need is a hope, a wish, and a desire. And this approach is far more likely to lead to a healthier conversation. We will go into more of this in a subsequent blog post, but it sounds like this:
“There are still a few things left in the trash. Would you take care of this like we talked about?.”
“Hey, babe. It’s almost 5 p.m. Can you please pay that bill so that we don’t get another late fee?”
Defensiveness is the first sign of self-protection. When in an argument, the first thing we do is defend our own innocence. This is fine if we truly haven’t done anything wrong. But if we meet our partner with a counter-attack, whining, or righteous indignation, we will most certainly make the conversation worse — leading to all those hateful words and attitudes!
“It’s not my fault. You’re the one who put us in this spot to begin with.”
“I’m the bad guy? You’re no angel, sweetheart!”
As much as you may not want to do it, the Gottman Institute tells us that accepting responsibility for even a part of the problem is the best antidote for using hateful words and attitudes toward your spouse. Instead of saying, “It’s not my fault we’re always late. It’s your fault,” perhaps say, “Well, part of this is my problem. I need to think more about time.”
This is perhaps the worst one on the list — if that’s even possible. The others are pretty bad, too. But even Gottman tells us that contempt is the single most corrosive behavior in a relationship. Contempt is when you use hateful words or attitudes with your spouse that comes from a position of superiority.
You act like you are better than them.
Perhaps you put them down with mockery, name-calling, and abusive language.
Maybe use sarcasm to make them feel inferior or stupid. Contempt is often accompanied by belligerence.
The antidote is to build a culture between you and your spouse where there is appreciation and respect — even when you are in the middle of an argument. It is possible to be civil, folks! Describe your own feelings and needs rather than your partners, and the outcomes will be far more positive.
We aren’t trying to pretend that couples shouldn’t ever disagree or have conflict. That’s simply not realistic. All we are saying is that instead of looking at each other as the enemy and using hateful words and attitudes with your spouse, it’s important to accept each other’s opinions, differences, and feelings, and find common ground. If you do, you’ll be blessed with the marriage you’ve always wanted.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? What are some ways you try to avoid using hateful words toward your spouse? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.