Saturday, November 13, 2010

Please Pass the Stapler!

Tip #3: Have an argment plan

Sometimess Dave and I argue.  I know, shocking.  And maybe we're the only ones that have had this conversation, but I doubt it.  Almost always, after an argument, I ask, "Dave, do we argue more than most other couples?" 

I'm sure pretty much everyone has had this thought at one point or another:  "All of our friends' marriages seem so perfect.  I'm sure they never argue.  They never seem like they get mad at each other."  You're wrong.  How do I know, you might ask?  Well, I'll tell you.

Last summer we went on a cruise with three other couples who are close friends.  Somehow at our dinner table one night, the discussion turned to arguing with your spouse.  Every couple was forthright in admitting that they argue, and sometimes quite heatedly.  What a relief!  It sure is nice to know that everyone else is in the same boat (and at the time, we were, quite literally).

Now here is the part where things got interesting . . . we started discussing what we argue about, as well as how the arguments go and how we handle them.  Some pretty funny stuff.  I had to admit that Dave is much better at keeping his cool and really listening to what the other person (hint, hint, me) has to say.  It's not my fault though, I swear - I mean, what's the point of listening to anyone else when you already know you're right? :)  Anyway, we learned some interesting things about each couple. 

I have to say though, my favorite was the couple who explained how they pull out a stapler when an argument breaks out.  Hearing that made me pretty nervous.  I did a quick once-over on the couple to see if I could detect any staple scars.  Maybe it's just me, but an argument and a stapler sounds like a relatively dangerous combination.  They went on to explain that during arguments they both tried to talk at the same time (I hope I'm remembering this right!) and wouldn't listen to one another, and, well, finally, one of them picked up the stapler sitting nearby and it was decided then and there that whoever had the stapler got to talk.

Now is this going to solve everyone's problems?  No.  But the point was, they had a plan.  What did they do when they started arguing?  They got out the stapler.  At least that way they could ensure that only one of them was talking at a time.  You might decide that a stapler is too dangerous, and decide to use a sock, a roll of toiletpaper, or some other object that will not inflict pain.

Whatever you decide, try to have a plan ahead of time.  Trying to come up with a method for handling the argument is usually much harder once the argument has begun.  Let's just face it, the rules of the ring are usually the last thing on our minds once we put the boxing gloves on.

Our plan isn't quite as cool.  At least it doesn't involve a stapler.  This is how we try to do it: Person A  speaks (hopefully while Person B is listening), and then Person B tells the person what they understood from what was said, and empathizes with Person A.  For example, "You feel ___________ because of __________.  And you really don't like it when _____________.  You wish I would  ___________."  And then, "I understand why ____________ blank was frustrating for you.  I know I feel that way when ___________."  Then we switch.  Now, we don't pull out this script everytime we argue.  And a lot of times we argue first, and then realize we're not getting anywhere so we try this method.  Someday we'll hopefully get to the point where we skip that first part and just talk and listen to each other.  But we're not perfect.  And no couple is. 

So have some sort of plan for when you argue.  I know that sounds strange, and I don't mean plan to argue.  But the truth is, you will argue.  So be prepared, and try some different things to see what works for you.  Count to ten, go on a walk, do something fun together and then come back to the topic, or try writing out your frustrations before you have the conversation so you're more clear on what you want to say. 

And hey, you never know, a stapler might save your marriage :)

I'd love to hear any of your arguing "tricks" if you'd care to share.  And no one will judge you, because we've all argued too.

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