This week I've been reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin and have learned quite a few things about myself as a result of the book. One of the chapters she writes on is about love and how she can go about improving her marriage. The chapter got me thinking about my own marriage and some of the steps I could take to make it better. My husband and I don't fight much but when we do I wind up feeling drained and I know he would love it if the argument didn't get started in the first place. I know some conflict is unavoidable; however, here are four ways I've learned to take tension down a notch from my own experiments and with the help of Gretchen's book.
- Learn what events tend to trigger the argument before it starts to avoid a fight. For example, my husband claims his parents always arrive late to family events and I've learned over the past couple of years that he's right. What took me awhile to figure out, though, was that we tended to get into an argument when we were heading out the door to go somewhere. I realized that he gets worried about arriving somewhere late. Since I figured that out we try to leave a half hour early and don't argue about it nearly as much.
- Figure out something else is at the heart of why you feel disagreeable. For example, are you hungry to the point that your stomach belts out a continuous rumble? Feeling deprived of anything: heat, cold, food and quiet is the fasted way to find yourself in an argumentative frame of mind. Look to see if there is a way to get yourself fed with nutritious food, wrapped up in a warm blanket, the air turned down a couple of degrees or a to room where you can vegetate for a few minutes before you unleash the result of deprivation on your significant other. Trust me, this method works to slow down and stop argument.
- Give yourself a chance to change the scene such as taking a drive or going for a walk. Sometimes I get bent out of shape if I have to spend too much time in any one place. I work at home and I will often find it's been a few days and I haven't been out of the house. If you find yourself in a similar situation try going outside for a couple of minutes or take a trip to your nearest coffee shop. The results are worth it when you realize that all you needed was to see something different.
- Pay attention to the cues around the two of you because out of experience, I know I tend to feel more argumentative when someone else around me is in a bad mood such as my husband or my 11-month-old. In this situation, I've learned it's best to ride it out and see if I still feel wound up after everyone else has settled down. Following one or even all of these steps for a few weeks and watch how calm your house seems as a result of paying attention to what you need in order to change the course of an argument before it starts.