Q: My son and his wife seem to argue a lot, usually over minor stuff. Is this natural for young couples these days?
Jim: Disagreements happen in marriage, whether it's over where to go for dinner or something more serious like budgeting or the in-laws. Every situation is different, but if you feel your son and his wife are arguing too much, you might encourage them to talk to a pastor or marriage counselor.
That said, here are some general guidelines for resolving conflict in marriage, courtesy of authors Ron Blue and Jeremy White:
1. Stick to the problem at hand. Don't bring up past issues or accuse your spouse of "always" or "never" behaving a certain way.
2. Get on the same side of the fence. Don't think about "my way" or "your way." Work toward a solution that represents "our way."
3. Identify the core issue. Get to the heart of the problem, not just the symptoms.
4. Don't be a mind reader. Don't try to interpret your spouse's thoughts or motives; instead, ask direct questions.
5. If you haven't reached a consensus by bedtime, agree to resume the discussion the next day. Bitterness can take root in your marriage if you leave things unresolved.
6. Avoid character assassination. No matter how strongly you disagree, attacking your spouse's personality or character is never acceptable.
7. Never forget that your relationship with your spouse is far more important than winning or being "right."
8. Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs. Be quick to forgive, quick to admit your own mistakes, and quick to move on from the conflict.
That's great advice. We'd recommend it for any married couple that wants to reach a peaceful resolution when disagreement rears its head.
Q: I heard a marriage expert say that men want to be asked for help. I'm newly married and pretty much used to doing things for myself. So, when the garbage needs to be taken care of, do I ask my husband, "Would you please take out the garbage?" Or just do it myself? I really don't know when to ask for help...
Juli: You're a wise woman to be asking this question as a newlywed. Many wives don't ask for help and end up resenting the fact that "I have to do everything around the house!" While men love to come to their wife's rescue, they hate to be nagged or criticized.
As a newly married, independent woman, it's going to be natural for you to treat your husband as a friend as you both self-sufficiently go through life together. The beauty of marriage is that you learn to become interdependent -- he depends on you for some things and you depend on him for others.
To start fostering that kind of healthy interdependence, choose a few things that you want his help with. I'd encourage you to pick things he's naturally better at than you are.
For example, my husband is far more organized than I am, so I ask him to help me with things that require organization. He's also physically stronger than I am -- so when it comes to lifting heavy objects or cleaning out the garage, I genuinely need help. Your husband can also help by giving advice or a unique perspective to a decision or difficult situation.
Most importantly, value the contribution he makes -- whether it's helping with household chores or giving you advice. Remember, if you want your husband to be a hero, you've got to be willing to need his help.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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