Knowing how to argue constructively is an essential life skill. It pays off at work and it’s fundamental to enduring relationships. Fighting or disagreeing with your partner is not inherently bad. Quite the opposite -it’s a red flag when couples don’t disagree.
My current guest, Lucy was married to her first husband for seven years. During that time, she didn’t speak up for herself. She didn’t know how to. That’s one thing that’s changed since her divorce. Here’s Lucy:
I would be afraid to bring up things that would potentially cause heated discussions or conflicts or to say things that really bothered me. Instead I would keep them inside, until I just felt bad and then it didn’t even really matter anymore.
Now with my current husband, it’s quite the opposite, in that we both kind of share our grievances and get it out and it just feels much healthier. Much more real, like we’re saying this isn’t perfect and nothing’s perfect and by saying that it helps us through things, I think.
My parents are in their 80’s now and so for the past 20 years I’ve heard them bickering, but never arguing, really. Even growing up I could tell at times when they were arguing, but it wasn’t like really notable at all. It was just kind of weird. When I look back and think, they really—kind of cool in a way that they worked things out, but I don’t know. Their style is not to argue.
If you don’t see anybody argue, you don’t know how. So, I didn’t even want to try, I guess, maybe.
I think my husband makes me crazy. No, I’m just kidding. There’s a lot of passion in our relationship, which is good. I covered that old problem in my first marriage, but along with that comes the—we are at odds a lot and I’m not quiet about it. If he makes me nuts, I’ll say, “Come on, what’s going on?”
It’s just the way we are together.
The Divorce Coach Says
I remember that my parents did have disagreements – we knew when they weren’t happy about something but their discussions were never conducted in front of us and I think that contributed to my weak skills in this area. If I wanted to do something that needed agreement from my dad, my mom would talk to my dad and then deliver the verdict. Again, that approach didn’t teach me how to handle disagreements or negotiations and nor did it help me speak up for myself.
During my marriage, I felt there was no point in discussing some issues because “they were what they were” and we were married and that was that. And yeah …. that wasn’t very effective because those issues only festered and I can see now that had I been more vocal the outcome would have been different: we either would have divorced sooner or found another resolution.
Lucy and I are not alone. Mama J is another one of my guests who learned the art of fighting as a result of her divorce. Another of my guests, Carolyn said she was too scared to speak up for herself during her marriage because she felt she was lucky to have her husband to take care of her. She learned that it’s OK to be angry but what’s not OK is to keep quiet about it.
Going through the divorce process was a major learning opportunity for me in this area and I know I’m better equipped now to handle disagreements. Hopefully I’m doing a good job of passing these skills on to my kids.
Did your parents argue in front of you? How did this affect how you handle disagreements?
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