When Discussions Escalate Into Arguments… & the 5 Rules You Should Never Break

“My husband and I have been married for 4 years. We’ve had our ups and downs and lately things have become increasingly stressful. Time after time, little disagreements end up escalating into bigger arguments that can include bitter criticism, bringing up past issues and put downs.

It seems that both of us really lose our perspective around what’s important and what isn’t. We’ve even had huge arguments about leaving dirty dishes in the sink (that one is my fault; however it shouldn’t escalate into a battle!). We’re both at fault when it comes to starting arguments.

What are some tips for making our conversations more conflict free? How can we discuss things instead of taking things to the next level which causes more hurt and damage to each other and our relationship?”

Ninety percent of conflicts are unmet needs from the past surfacing.

Only ten percent of arguments are actually tied in to the present. Behind every heated argument is typically an unmet need that has not been satisfied. We actually use our intimate relationships to complete unresolved childhood issues. When an emotional charge does not parallel the situation at hand, it’s a signal that an unmet need has surfaced.

Take a situation that has angered you. Remember all relationships are about our reactions, our responses, and our interpretations to other people. Without making yourself wrong, without making the other person wrong, removing any judgment, just simply observe as an outsider. What is happening for you in response to your partner’s actions or inactions?

Do you see any commonalities with how you related to your parents in getting your needs met? Is your anger surfacing for someone else and you have projected it onto your partner? Notice the ways that you are trying to get your needs met.

Communicate by saying “I need…” and not “You don’t….” This simple exercise removes the focus from blaming your partner, which is highly explosive to a relationship, to focusing back to the source of the problem.

Conflict is inevitable and a normal part of marriage.

Healthy conflict leads to positive changes; negative conflict can be very destructive. Minor disagreements get out of hand very quickly or simple conversations suddenly turn into shouting matches because your fear of being invalidated, ridiculed, criticized or judged gets triggered.

It takes common sense, patience and practice to effectively resolve conflict. If you remember that conflict is normal, you can learn to constructively resolve problems; unless one or both of you is holding on to past hurts, affronts or disappointments. Then, managing conflict is an entirely different proposition.

That said, there are strategies for resolution that DO work. Here are six tips:

1. Clearly describe the issue(s)
2. Stay neutral, calm and grounded; don’t get involved in the emotion of the issue(s)
3. Don’t worry that you won’t be heard
4. Re-state your understanding of what you heard in a non-judgmental way
5. Listen responsively and attentively
6. Avoid giving advice, sharing your feelings, analyzing or explaining anything

Managing conflict is an essential relationship success skill.

When we love someone, but are arguing over silly things, it usually means we are feeling hurt or unloved. One of the things I would encourage both of you to do is to honestly ask yourself, did the other person do something that led you to feeling unloved or unappreciated? It might not even make logical sense, but just remember if something happened recently.

If we do not express our hurts at the time they happen, resentment grows. When the past is continually brought up it is because it was not adequately resolved and forgiven. When resentment grows, everything becomes an issue — even the dishes!

Have a clearing session where you speak your hurts, hear the other person, apologize for the hurt feelings, forgive each other and then have an agreement to continually speak your hurts. If you feel that you can’t do this without the assistance of a third person, find someone and get into the habit and then you’ll be able to do it yourself after that. Resentments are relationship killer. Don’t let them build!

Learn to communicate in your spouse’s language.

Relationships evolve over time and things that we once found cute and charming are now some of the things that irritate us to no end. Chances are the real issue is not the dirty dishes left in the sink (although I must admit this is also a pet peeve of mine). So what is the issue?

You and your spouse need to communicate with each other. Set up some time to talk, freely and candidly, without any distraction. The key is to be fully present, listen to each other, tell them how you feel and then, in turn, allow them to do the same.

Set up some boundaries before you talk and, if you feel the conversation starts to go down the wrong path, don’t be afraid to end the conversation in a calm manner. The purpose of this talk is to be constructive. Remember that in relationships things come up; the key is to address the issues instead of ignoring them.

You and your partner are on the same team. You both want to strengthen your relationship and that is one of the best gifts you could give each other!

Conflict is part of life in relationships and how you manage it makes all the difference.

You may be stuck in the control stage where you are both re-asserting your individuality and independence. This is a natural phase and if handled maturely and with personal responsibility, you will evolve to more peace once you allow and accept each other as you are.

To keep reactions from spiraling out of control, notice what the fear is that underlies your reactions. How does that fear relate to your identity? When you remember who you really are, you discover you’re not upset for the reason you thought. When you take personal responsibility for getting what you want, you no longer have to get rid of your internal guilt by trying to give it away (blaming!).

When you disagree on an issue, find the common outcome you both want before discussing how you’ll resolve it. Even if you don’t agree on the best way to handle it, at least you agree on what it is you both really want.

Co-habiting Couples: 5 Money Rules to Follow

Money issues can be difficult to discuss even in the best of relationships. When you are living together, but not married, things can get messy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Instead of just letting things happen, have a plan for yourself. Here I have outlined five rules that every woman and man should live by when co-habitating.

#1 Do Keep Control of Your Money

Moving in together is not a sign that you should combine your money with joint accounts. You don’t know what will happen in the future. You might think things are going to work out and that you can overcome anything together, but people learn a lot about each other when they move in that they never knew before.

Until you are living together for a significant amount of time or get married, there is no reason to combine your money. Sometimes it’s easier to pay things like rent, phone bills and utilities from one account though. If you decide to go this way, set up a new account where you will both deposit your half of those items that are shared. Remember to keep records of the money that you put into the shared account in the event that your contributions are disputed at a later time.

#2 Don’t Lend Your Girl/Boyfriend Money

Money issues cause enough problems between people without one partner lending the other money. If s/he needs to borrow money, this might be good insight into their finances. Why doesn’t s/he have money? Does s/he overspend? Is s/he in debt? These are their issues which s/he needs to deal with themselves. You are not responsible for their financial problems.

If you do decide to lend them the money s/he needs, make sure you get everything in writing; otherwise you may never get your money back. By the way, don’t ask your girl/boyfriend to lend you money either; and in the event s/he does extend a loan to you, get it in writing along with the payback terms.

#3 Do Have Separate Bills

Keep your credit card bills separate. If you start using one person’s card for all of your shopping, arguments may occur over who bought what. Keep your personal spending on your own cards. If you go shopping for groceries together, try to use cash.

Many couples have different spending styles. One person may be frugal and enjoy saving money while the other enjoys treating themselves to lots of new and expensive toys. Living together as a couple doesn’t give either partner the right to control how the other spends. You also want to make sure that you keep your credit score as good as possible.

#4 Don’t Let Your Boyfriend Pay for Everything (For the Ladies)

Your boyfriend might have good intentions when offering to pay for everything because you are a couple, but it’s not something you should allow. He might want to prove to you that he can support you. Let him know that he is very sweet to offer, but you’d rather pay your half of everything. You could suggest to him that he save the half he was willing to pay for you. He can save that half of the money for the future.

Unfortunately some men have a completely different idea in mind when they offer to cover a woman’s half of everything. He may expect that you will take on all of the chores around the home even though you also work a full-time job. It might sound like a nice deal that leaves you with more money, but in the end you may feel less like a girlfriend and more like a housekeeper. You should discuss how you both will share in the expenses and have written agreements with each other.

#5 Do Have a Personal Financial Plan

Just because you move in with your boyfriend doesn’t mean you have to give up your financial dreams. If you have started saving for retirement, you are not obligated to use that money for something else such as a vacation or the down payment on a house. Don’t give into any guilt that might be thrown your way. You can start saving for something new, but never give up your old plans. If you have investments or want to start investing soon, stick with that plan.

Relationships and finances are a messy combination, but it’s unavoidable. You must sit down as a couple and talk about how you will deal with finances in your relationship, at least once a month. If you can talk about these issues while you are dating and then move into together, your future together looks better.

Remember to keep love and money separate. Your finances should be discussed like business partners and not boyfriend and girlfriend. You will be unemotional and more objective by doing so.

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