Learn What To Do When You and Your Spouse Disagree
If you’ve been married for a minute, then you know you and your spouse have disagreements. But, have the two of you ever had a disagreement where not only were you on opposite sides of the issue but neither of you was willing to budge?
You’re in good company. Plenty of spouses have experienced this. They’re likely not talking about it because they’re thinking, “What does it say about our marriage if we can’t figure out how to compromise?”
The good news is not only is it OK to disagree with your husband or wife, but it’s also possible to agree to disagree with them without experiencing distress in your marriage. Basically, you accept one another’s viewpoint without agreeing on it, and then, move forward. You and your spouse are not always going to come to a compromise, and that’s OK.
To some, maybe even to you, this is a far-fetched idea. So, how do you make it happen? There are two keys to agreeing to disagree.
- Learn to be a good listener.
- Learn to value and express appreciation for your spouse’s perspective even when you have a completely different point of view.
These are simple steps, but why are they so difficult to enact?
Here is one common reason. When spouses disagree, the husband, for example, shares his perspective while the wife focuses on phrases she wants to respond to. When doing this, she doesn’t hear all her husband really said.
Then, while she’s responding, the same thing happens with her husband. He focuses on “listening to respond” instead of “listening to understand,” creating a dangerous downward spiral where both parties feel unseen, unheard, and not valued.
So, a great starting point is to agree to fully hear each other’s perspectives without simultaneously crafting a response.
Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, and Susan Bloomberg have been researching couples for more than three decades. One thing they learned is it’s hard for couples to slow down long enough to hear one another before jumping in with a response, so they came up with an effective solution called “The Floor.” Here’s how it works.
One spouse has “The Floor.” This could be represented by an index card, a piece of paper, or anything that is a visible reminder of who has the floor to speak. If you have the floor, you may choose one topic—only one—to talk about.
The other spouse is the listener. Think of this as being an investigator. The goal is when your spouse is finished sharing, they feel heard. When you’re the listener, ask questions to understand, so your spouse knows you’re listening, even if you don’t agree. Ultimately, you want to value what they have to say because they said it not because you think they’re right.
Overall, it’s important to note there will be times when you and your spouse disagree that you need to decide to agree to disagree. When you decide this, here are some helpful strategies. Pick one or two to commit to memory for the next time you’re having a disagreement.
- Make sure your spouse feels fully heard by listening to understand them.
- Guard against allowing the disagreement to create resentment or bitterness between the two of you.
- Accept that it’s possible neither of you may be wrong. You may just see the situation from two different perspectives.
- Make an extra effort to love your spouse through the disagreement. Don’t punish one another for not seeing eye to eye all the time.
- Understand that differences are like ingredients in a recipe. If a dish has only one ingredient, it’ll be very bland. Different ingredients allow your tastebuds to experience the dish in a new way. The same is true for your marriage.
If you and your spouse are experiencing great difficulty with a specific issue and it’s causing stress in your marriage, then a third party may be able to help.
It’s not always easy to disagree without being disagreeable. But, the one you love is far more valuable than proving your point or being right. Highly happy couples say there are plenty of moments when they agree to disagree, but they never lose sight of the fact that they’re on the same team as their spouse, and their marriage is more important than whatever threatens to come between them.