Why Scheduling Arguments Can Save Your Marriage

Does it seem that you and your partner argue a lot? Or, are you aware of hidden resentments and unexpressed feelings that are mostly buried or swept under the rug? One common misconception in relationships is that conflict is both damaging to the relationship and mostly unplanned. However, that is not completely true.  Destructive and unhealthy conflict of course can negatively impact a relationship.  But, “healthy conflict” and productive communication is, in fact, essential for creating and maintaining a healthy relationship.

The Honeymoon Phase

Can a relationship be healthy if a couple never has a disagreement? Probably not, since 99.9% of couples have differences that need to be resolved. Perhaps the only exception to this is when couples are in the Honeymoon Phase, or in the beginning period, of a relationship. This occurs when two people are glowingly in love where a couple can typically have little or no conflict whatsoever and still have a healthy relationship.  Unfortunately, this phase does not last.

After the Honeymoon Phase

After the honeymoon phase, it is highly likely that couples will have some types of disagreements in their interactions with one another. Two things to keep in mind:

1. There may be that 1 in a million couple that is so compatible that there is no difference of opinion. (It’s fairly safe to assume that’s not you or you wouldn’t have read even this much of the article!)

2. The majority of relationship problems and conflicts that do arise are usually manageable problems. However, the couple that never seems to have an argument might simply be sweeping their relationship problems under the rug in order to avoid conflict.

Why Do Couples Ignore Conflict?

There are several reasons why couples choose not to engage in discussions that could cause a conflict. These include:

  • Fear of the discussion turning into an argument and escalating out of control.
  • Lack of confidence to be able to handle the discussion effectively.
  • Past experiences that have shown these kinds of discussions don’t go well.
  • An unspoken agreement to avoid the conflict.

Ignoring the conflict is simply a strategy that doesn’t work. It only serves to “kick that can down the road.”  Eventually the issues that are kept under the surface will re-emerge, shattering the temporary strained silence. It will also be uglier and more intense than if originally addressed in a timely way. Even if the silence does last, the relationship will inevitably become more distant, with each partner living parallel, but separate lives. This avoidance can and does ultimately doom many relationships.

Learning to Resolve Conflict

Thankfully, there are steps that couples can take to resolve their disagreements. The couples that intuitively know they don’t have the skills to resolve conflict on their own, can attend couples counseling or attend classes to learn how to more skillfully communicate with one another.  Those who feel they do have the skills, but are still avoiding the issues can “schedule” a time to “argue.”  What this really means is to set a (preferably regular) time in which to respectfully communicate with each other.

Things to Do When Scheduling an Argument

When scheduling this time, consider the following factors:

  • Begin by meeting once a week for 10 minutes. Make sure that both of you are free from distractions, such as cell phones, TV, computers, or other pressing needs.  
  • Gradually increase your meeting times to 2-3 times a week, aiming for a minimum of 15-20 minutes at a time. 
  • Both partners need to make an effort to really attend to each other’s concerns. Each is respectful, focusing on the other partner with the mindset of creating understanding.
  • If you get stuck and things escalate, temporarily end the discussion and reschedule at a time when both partners are likely to be calm. 
  • If, after repeated attempts, you are both still stuck on an issue, consider seeking professional couples counseling.

The bottom line is that healthiest couples find a way to avoid a heated conflict, but are skilled in engaging in respectful discussions that include differences of opinion.

Couples who schedule “conflict” are being proactive by establishing a framework to have difficult discussions with the purpose of understanding one another and respectfully finding a satisfactory resolution, instead of simply ignoring the problem.

Eventually, you and your partner can become skilled at resolving differences in a way that ultimately strengthens your relationship, instead of weighing it down.


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