Disagreements in Marriage

Making Your Marriage Thrive … Despite Disagreements!

Well, just about every couple disagrees from time to time. How do you handle it? Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way?

It’s not really the argument that matters – it’s how you deal with it as a couple.

Every marriage is different and so are all of the solutions that come with tackling the problems that plague every couple. There are a lot of great resources on dealing with disagreements in marriage, but there is no “blanket technique” that will work for everybody. So, to get a wide variety of answers and options for you, our amazing readers, we thought we’d poll – well – each other! No marriage is perfect, including those of the Dating Divas!

I posed one question to my fellow Divas: “How do you handle disagreements in your marriage?” The responses ranged from brilliant, to hilarious, to thought-provoking! It is fun to see that even we Divas have things to work through in our marriages, and it is inspiring to see their awesome examples in their everyday relationships.

However, we aren’t experts, and have never claimed to be. After we share the Divas must-do tips on dealing with disagreements, we’ll share some of our top tips from relationship experts, too!

Handling Disagreements in Marriage

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I first heard this story from Dieter F. Uchtdorf a few years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since!

“I am reminded of a story about a couple who had been married for 60 years. They had rarely argued during that time, and their days together passed in happiness and contentment. They shared everything and had no secrets between them—except one. The wife had a box that she kept at the top of a sideboard, and she told her husband when they were married that he should never look inside.

As the decades passed, the moment came that her husband took the box down and asked if he could finally know what it contained. The wife consented, and he opened it to discover two doilies and $25,000. When he asked his wife what this meant, she responded, ‘When we were married, my mother told me that whenever I was angry with you or whenever you said or did something I didn’t like, I should knit a small doily and then talk things through with you.’

The husband was moved to tears by this sweet story. He marveled that during 60 years of marriage he had only disturbed his wife enough for her to knit two doilies. Feeling extremely good about himself, he took his wife’s hand and said, ‘That explains the doilies, but what about the $25,000?’

His wife smiled sweetly and said, ‘That’s the money I got from selling all the doilies I’ve knitted over the years.'”

Dealing with disagreements in marriage - awesome!

Handling Disagreements in Marriage – From The Dating Divas!

It’s good to have some “go-to” tips in your back pocket in case an argument arises. Here are some tactics that are tried-and-true Diva approved!

1. If it’s late, go to sleep – in the same bed. Bet you didn’t see this one coming, huh? The typical advice given is to “never go to bed angry”. In fact, my husband and I swore by this ourselves when we were first married! However, we quickly learned that sometimes, it’s just best to call it a night. More often than not, feelings would escalate because we were just plain ol’ tired and were acting irrationally. So, after a while, we just decided to work out what we could, and then hit the hay – together – in the same bed. (We’ve always felt the symbolism here is important. Even though you don’t agree, showing that you are still sticking with each other says a lot.) About 95% of the time, we wake up the next day, apologize, and quickly come to a solution with a fresh mind and perspective.

2. Stop and ask questions. I love this tip from Diva Becca: “It’s so easy to get so busy TALKING and trying to convince our spouse why we’re right and validating our own hurt feelings. However, when you give them the benefit of the doubt and stop to ask questions until you can understand their point of view and where they are coming from – it’s so much easier to solve the problem. When you both love each other, and recognize that you both have good intentions, you can work on the problem together. It’s the whole ‘you and me vs. the problem’ and NOT ‘you vs me’ mentality.”

3. Use The Analogy of the Eyes. This tip is a little something I gleaned from the incredible Marriage Masters Program AND game-changing Reclaim Your Marriage Program called “The Analogy of the Eyes.” In essence, here it is: close one eye and focus on something in the room. Get that image into your brain a bit. Now, open that eye, and close the other one. Did that object jump a little? It should have! Why does it do that? Well, essentially, our eyes act as two “cameras” that take slightly different pictures of what’s before us. Because our eyes are a couple of inches apart, each sees its view from a slightly different perspective. The brain then combines these two images for us to create a single image. So why weren’t we just made with one “perfect” eye that could see correctly?  There are several reasons. Because we have two eyes, we have a wider field of vision and can see more than we could with just one eye.  Having two eyes taking these slightly different images is also how we can gauge depth perception accurately. Our eyes need to focus differently in order to see things at different distances. You can probably guess where we are going with this – even though you and your spouse are different, you have to see the same vision. Right along with that, realize that it’s okay to see things differently; you are supposed to! That is one of the best parts of marriage.

4. Work the Problem. Diva Heather suggests: “If you can, talk it through right then and there. Some disagreements are really complicated, and can take days (or even weeks!) to come to an agreement on. If it can be discussed and solved right then (and you aren’t too worked up yet!) deal with it.” Sometimes if things get really heated, it helps to walk away and chill (or knit a doily…ha!), but don’t let it fester if it’s completely capable of solving. Personally, in my marriage we “work the problem.” This is my engineering husband’s mantra! We work the problem, not the person. Do your best to focus on the task at hand, not on attacking the other person. Solve what needs to be solved, and move on. Along the same lines, Diva Caroline suggests this great tip: “We are people who need to talk it out as it happens or we tend to just get angrier, so we try to actually sit down and discuss our viewpoints – taking turns and uninterrupted. Also, we express how our feelings might have been hurt which tends to bring us back to our true selves. I feel like each argument is unique, but we always, always, always end with saying I love you and, at the least, a hug. I feel like discussions need to be had, but the feeling of love always needs to triumph in the end.”

5. Be quick to apologize. Try to worry more about your spouse than being right! From Diva Gabby: “We don’t get in arguments very much, but I think talking and trying to see things from the other person’s point of view really helps. Often, you realize they weren’t trying to be hurtful, it’s just a misunderstanding! One of the best lessons I’ve learned is to be quick to apologize, and mean it. In a disagreement, there is always something to apologize for – and I find realizing your own weaknesses helps you to forgive others.”

6. Space is a beautiful thing! And here we are, back at those doilies! It’s beneficial to take a breather. From Diva Jess: “We don’t argue a whole lot, but when we do, we find it’s best to give each other some space. Getting mad and arguing in the heat of the moment, at least for me, leads to me saying things I don’t really mean. However, if we take time to go on a drive/walk alone, or even just shut myself in the bathroom (I put myself in time out – not ashamed to admit that!), I can think about it all, try to see if from different perspectives, then, when I’ve calmed down, get my point across in a more kind, but also more direct, way.”

7. Let’s get physical. From Diva Caroline: “Try to create some sort of physical contact! This is sometimes the last thing I want to do, but if my husband reaches for my hands or tries to cuddle, I always notice how much it helps improve the feeling around our discussion.” I will add, personally, some of the “most memorable” advice I received at our wedding was to ‘always fight naked!’ Ha!

8. Know the issues. Courtesy of our Lead Site Director, Chrissy: “Recognize the ‘hot button’ issues with your spouse. Everybody has a “hot button” issue – it could be political, personal, or even just how your spouse leaves their socks laying around. Know exactly what those issues are for your spouse and avoid them, particularly when you are already in the heat of a disagreement. They should be talked about at some point, but leave it for a time when you are both a) in a good mood, and b) open to discussing it and coming to a solution together.”

9. Embrace an icebreaker. This is a great story from Diva Becca that made me smile! Try having an inside joke or “code word” to break the ice if there’s some tension or hurt feelings in your marriage; just a little something you can say or do to let your spouse know – “I know you’re upset and I love you.” She says: “After the very first disagreement in our marriage, my husband wasn’t sure what to do to cheer me up or make me feel loved. He said he wanted to go buy me flowers or at least pick me a flower, but he didn’t want to leave the house and have me think that he didn’t care. It didn’t help that our yard didn’t have anything to offer, either! So, he went into the bathroom and made me a rose out of toilet paper. Ha ha ha! When he came into the room and handed me the toilet paper rose, I looked up at him and we both just started laughing. It was just so random and silly. It totally broke the ice and made me realize how much he really loved me that he would do something so ridiculous just to try to make me smile. So now that’s our ‘code.’ We almost never have disagreements, but when we do, we go make a toilet paper rose as a little peace offering. Once, I even just said the words ‘toilet paper rose’ and it got us laughing and smiling.”

10. Same Team! Same Team! From our amazing founder, Diva Tara: “I think one of the best things my husband ever did was at the very beginning of our marriage, when we weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye on something, he would say, ‘Same team! Same team!’ That made us both laugh and also made me realize that we ARE on the same team. It’s not us against each other, it’s us against the world… and we are stronger when we’re united. If you always keep in mind that ultimately, you both DO have the same goals, it will be easier to come to an agreement you are both happy with.”

Must-read tips for every couple on disagreements in marriage.

11. The Quickie. Diva Paige had this to say: “My husband and I are very different arguers so this is actually a tough area for us. I like to talk, and my husband likes to forgive and forget. So, we typically take some time apart, think about the situation, and after the kids have gone to bed, or the next day, we try to have a quick conversation. And I know that sounds like a terrible idea … BUT, quick simply means we get to the point of why we were upset or hurt, then explain what we’d like to see or have done in the future. Both sides hear it out and we don’t allow it to carry on to re-start the argument, or create a new one. It’s important to talk about it, absolutely, but we just don’t want talking about it to elongate the situation. Most importantly, talking post fact and not in the heat of the moment is crucial to ensuring both parties feel heard and avoid saying hurtful things!”

12. Be observant. What’s going on outside of the argument? Diva Niki said this: “We are very fortunate that we do not argue much, (if ever!) but when things do arise, we try and look at the outside things. Is one of us just particularly tired? Is there something going on at school? Are we hungry? {Come on! We ALL know that being HANGRY is a real thing! Lol!} Sometimes, if we are overly stressed or tired, it just helps to let the issue ‘rest’ for a bit. This doesn’t mean that you try and blame everything on other circumstances and don’t deal with issues – we are all still responsible for our actions – but it often times help bring some understanding and clarity to the situation. Later, when things have calmed down, we re-address the issue with level heads, and things often go a lot smoother.”

13. It’s not a contest. Our Queen-of-all-Things-Marketing Diva Jen chimed in with this golden nugget: “After 14 years, we don’t argue much – we’ve worn down all the rough edges at this point! But when we do, it’s usually because one or both of us is feeling under-appreciated and/or overwhelmed! One of my favorite things my mom always used to say was, ‘this is not a contest!’ Similar to Tara’s ‘same team’ idea, remembering that phrase helps me be less focused on my own anger or reasons for being upset. It almost always brings me back around to thinking of all the wonderful things my husband does, and the huge contributions he makes toward our entire family’s happiness. Once I bring my approach back to gratitude, it’s a short step to ‘I’m sorry.’ and ‘I need a hug.’ Sometimes it takes me longer than others, but no matter who’s mad at whom, that kind of disarmament works – for both of us – every time.

14. Learn how to truly apologize. From our lovely Diva Sarina: “One piece of advice that I love from a marriage book called ‘For All Eternity‘ was the advice of how to actually apologize. Often, it is our human nature when apologizing, to make excuses of why you did what you did, or said what you said. A TRUE apology will have the person accepting their action, showing regret, and promising to not do it again. The moment you start making excuses, you leave things open to getting defensive. It is hard to argue with someone who is quick to apologize and has a true, sincere apology.”

15. Don’t act out of entitlement. Diva Shanelle had this wise wisdom: “We don’t deserve anything just because we are the wife. He doesn’t deserve anything because he is the husband. I can’t buy anything I want because I am the one working. Don’t assume you will get their forgiveness if you are acting rudely just because you are married – it can hurt even worse!”

This last tip from our Marketing Intern, Jaide, cracked me right up!

16. Eat. We don’t argue a whole lot, but when we do, it’s because I’m hungry. To dissolve the tension we try (it’s so hard sometimes!) to make a silly faces at each other and then my husband will get me a snack so the argument won’t start again.”

Handling Disagreements in Marriage – Advice From the Experts!

These four tips from Dr. John Gottman via Psychology Today are absolutely worth mentioning:

1. Try to make comments about the communication process itself, such as “Please let me finish,” or “We’re getting off the topic,” or “That hurt my feelings.”

2. Comment on what’s happening while it’s taking place, not afterward.

3. Remind your partner that you admire and empathize with them despite the conflict.

4. Use phrases such as “Yes, I see,” “Uh huh,” or “Go on.” These are little psychological strokes at which stable couples are masters.

This is a great step-by-step conflict resolution process via StrongerMarriage.org: (P.S. – they also have a “fill in the blank” exercise that is awesome!)

“The following exercise is designed to help two individuals resolve a particular disagreement or conflict. In order for this to work, both individuals must want to have some sort of resolution to the situation. The process goes as follows:

1. Person A completes the sequence of four statements (as follows) from his/her point of view. Person A should be very specific and focus on behaviors. Remember, the goal is mutual resolution, not winning.

a. Description of the current situation (“The conflict I’m having with you is…” “The problem as I see it is…”).

b. Description of the ideal situation (“What I’d like to see is…” “What I’d like the outcome to be is…”).

c. Description of current feelings or emotions (“The way I feel about this situation is…” “I feel.. when we…because…”).

d. Description of self-intention (“What I’m willing to do to create what I want is…” “I’m willing to reach a settlement by…”).

2. Person B then paraphrases what Person A has said. If the paraphrase is accepted as accurate by Person A, Person B goes through the same sequence of statements and Person A paraphrases them.
3. Person A then asks, “Can we reach an agreement?” If the answer is “no,” Person A begins the sequence again. If the answer is “yes,” both parties propose possible solutions.
4. Person A presents four possible solutions, considering what Person B has said, ranking them 1, 2, 3, 4. Person B does the same. Person A selects one of B’s solutions and Person B selects one of A’s solutions as being the most desirable. Negotiate over which solution will accomplish the greatest outcome for both. Agree to try it out in a temporary basis to assess its consequences. Then come back and make any small changes as necessary. Any resolution must be tried willingly by both parties. A lack of commitment to do so may shatter the outcome and lower the trust level.

NOTE: It may be helpful to have a third person present to facilitate the statement sequence and paraphrasing process.”

Amazing, right? We are lucky to have so much knowledge at our fingertips these days. Diva Becca also has 10 must-read tips in her fantastic article “You Didn’t Marry a Jerk!” 

For even more resources, you should also check out this post that reviews our Top 12 Favorite Marriage Books!

Are you having some problems in your marriage? Check out Diva Central for even MORE great ideas for working on your marriage!

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Each marriage comes with it’s own set of problems – and it’s okay to admit that you might have some in your marriage, too. What is more important is how you deal with them and still make your marriage work, each and every single day. Don’t give up!

About the Author: Catharine

The first time my husband saw me, I had whipped cream all over my face, and chocolate smothered all over my chef whites. He asked me out right then and there, and he didn't even know my name! Five beautiful years, two incredible kids, four teensy apartments, and a darling home later...he still sweeps me off my feet everyday! I am a true lover of travel, music, vintage fashion, classic literature, teaching, my faith, and midnight baking.

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3 Responses to Disagreements in Marriage

  1. Thanks for the great tips. My husband and I are about as different as possible which naturally leads to arguments. I might have to try a few of these tips on him! When we fight I try to make him stop and pray with me. I think it sets a good tone for our marriage and it calms me down.

  2. Oh my goodness! I love this article SOOOOO much!!!! Such great advice, I LOVE that store from Dieter F. Uchtdorf loved all the diva advice AND loved the expert advice!