We’ve all said things we didn’t mean during arguments with our spouses, things you should never say in an argument. But we don’t always have to walk away from fights regretting what we’ve said. It’s normal to argue in marriage, but there’s a better way to do it.
When arguing as a couple, we know what presses our spouse’s buttons. The longer you’re married, the more you know what will get at the other. When we argue, there are things we do that aren’t helpful and in fact, cause more problems. Here are 5 things to leave out of a fight with your spouse.
1. The Past
This might mean bringing up things from last night or from 25 years ago. It can also mean making “always” or “never” statements: “You NEVER apologize!” or “You ALWAYS pick a fight when you know I’m busy.”
In your marriage, resolve not to be the spouse who always digs up the past. Be careful to use words like “sometimes,” “often,” or “at times…” Staying in the present keeps you on topic and helps you be more solution-oriented. You’ll only unnecessarily prolong the argument—and cause new arguments—by bringing up the past.
2. Irrelevant Issues
Seek to keep the main thing the main thing. Many couples create more issues by jumping from one argument to something that isn’t tied directly to the current issue. It’s easy to drift in an argument to focusing on other complaints rather than the solution to the present issue. Keep arguments simpler by focusing on one thing at a time. Bringing up additional issues is typically a defense mechanism we use to deflect attention off ourselves and onto the other person.
3. Personal Attacks
It’s never you against your spouse. It’s you and your spouse against the problem. If you attack the person instead of the problem, you’ll damage your relationship. Often, personal attacks can start when using “you” statements instead of “I” statements. “You never help out around here!”
Instead, try saying, “I feel frustrated when I don’t have help around the house.” It’s not only a kinder way of getting the point across, but it lowers the temperature in the room. Instead of adding gas to the fire, it helps the other person see where you’re coming from.
Akin to bringing up the past, resist bringing up what your spouse’s parents have done or may have modeled for your spouse. “You’re just like your mother” is one of the things you should never say in an argument with your spouse. It never helps. You’re only exacerbating the issue by making hurtful implications rather than focusing on the problem. Create a boundary together. If you decide that neither of you will ever bring up your parents during a fight, damaging your relationship in that way won’t even be an option.
Comparison is the opposite of respect and love. Imagine saying that you “bet so-and-so never brings up stuff like this” or “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?” or worse, “I should’ve married so-and-so!” Comparing your spouse to other people’s spouses will create disconnection in your marriage.
Early in our marriage, Susan and I were secretly envious of some of our friends. They seemed to have a close relationship. We would talk about it often and wonder where we were going wrong. These friends made marriage look easy. But, after a few years, their marriage ended in divorce. Their relationship looked amazing outside their home but turned out not to be great inside their home. Resist the urge to think others have it all together and you don’t.
What are some other things you should never say in an argument with your spouse? Share in a comment below.