Asked and Asnwered, Volume IVJuly 14, 2015
Asked: I'm a long time reader and love how honest you are when you answer these questions, so here's mine! When you and your husband argue, how do you resolve things? I'm always curious how other couples navigate the hard parts of relationships. Especially with kids in the picture, it's not always easy!
Answered: Dear Long Time Reader,
So, let me first say that I have no idea what I'm doing as far as being an awesome partner goes. I'm obviously learning as we slog through this whole marriage thing, so take all of this with a giant grain of salt (preferably on the rim of a strong margarita).
I can honestly say that in past relationships, I was not a stellar version of myself when it came to arguing. I was very, very unkind with my words and had no qualms about hurting someone that I loved very deeply during an argument. I am not proud of that behavior and it should come as no surprise that I am not fortunate enough to call any of my serious exes friends.
With that being said, when I met my husband, I knew I wanted to do better, to be better, in our relationship. Selfishly, the guilt of my past behavior weighed heavily on me but I also never wanted to hurt him like I had hurt others (well, in the heat of the moment, I honestly did sometimes want to, but thankfully I was able to mostly rise above my inner bitch).
It took tons of time (like, years) but we've mostly worked out the things that we just can't take the other doing or saying during a fight (certain words, bringing up certain past events/topics or certain actions like door slamming, for example). Obviously, the convos about the no-go activities had to be endured in a totally neutral time and space - well after the heat of the moment - but saying out loud the things that just made our blood boil or hurt us super hard have made a difference in the way we argue now.
Don't get me wrong, we still have knock down, drag outs that can escalate to levels that neither of us want to write home about, but we take care to avoid the things that we know can really bring the other to their knees emotionally.
Another strategy that really seems to work for us is communicating via email. If we have an arguement that goes on and on with neither being willing to bend or over a topic that just can't be neatly resolved, we tend to send each other emails to discuss after the fact.
That sounds very civilized, but picture having a huge fight, going to bed angry (we don't believe in the old "never go to bed angry" because we have a baby who does not give one single you know what that we were up late fighting about who should have washed the dishes. He is up at 6:30am come hell or high water.) and then spending the next morning fuming. At some point around noon, one of us might cave and send the initial email, laying the ground work for an attempted resolution. This really works for me as I can get incredibly frustrated when I feel that I'm not being heard or understood in an argument. And let's be real, who honestly says the words "I hear what you're saying and I understand where you're coming from" in a heated discussion? No one.
Anyway, sitting down to type out an email usually allows me the time to dump all of my thoughts out, figure out what I really want/need to get across and then edit out all of the swear words and little jabs. Justin usually does the same and sometimes we send many, many emails back and forth addressing each others concerns and issues. Hiding behind the computer allows us to avoid seeing the eye rolls (a huge pet peeve of Justin's), hearing a certain tone of voice (a big issue for me) and affords us the opportunity to say exactly what it is that we want to communicate much more eloquently than we most likely did in the original fight. Many times we are able to type the words I'm Sorry well before we are actually able to say them. Honestly, when it comes down to it, sometimes I'm really off about what I thought Justin was upset about until I read his emails (probably because I was too busy hollering and stomping around to hear what he was saying) and I'm guessing he feels the same way about me (and I can assure you he does a lot of hollering and stomping, too).
So, that's my best attempt at answering this question. We try to not cut too deeply with our words, respect each others previously established argument no-gos and to do our best to resolve an issue in a way that makes us both feel heard and justified, even if that requires a day full of tedious emails and a digital I'm Sorry.
Ugh, that was super honest. I need wine.
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