Stay on Target in Your Discussions - FamilyEducation

Stay on Target in Your Discussions

Learn how to maintain focus when you're arguing with your spouse.

Marriage Q & A's

Q: When I bring up all the things that are bothering me, we never seem to be able to resove anything. What can I do?

A: It's very important to discuss and resolve one issue at a time. When you try to resolve many different things at a time, it can be overwhelming and it makes it impossible to find workable solutions. If you make sure to set aside time every week, or possibly twice a week, to discuss conflicts, you will have the time you need to work through one issue at a time.

Think Twice

Never say the word “divorce.” Ever. Don't even imply it. It's one of the most destructive things you can do to your relationship. It weakens trust and creates fear about the future.

It's tempting in an argument to collect every grievance you have ever had against your spouse and throw it in his or her face. This is obviously counterproductive. If you are talking about dirty socks, talk only about dirty socks. That is an issue you can tackle and resolve. If dirty socks turns into wet towels, cold dinners, and too many long days at the office, you will defeat your purpose. You will not have resolved the issue about dirty socks, and you will have succeeded only in making your spouse angry and alienated.

Sue and Harry were handling their conflicts better. They had set aside time to discuss differences, and they were better at using the word “I” to communicate their needs. But sometimes they would lose focus during an argument. Sue wanted Harry to clean the kitchen table after he was done eating, and asked him to do so. But just as he was about to agree, she began listing several other “dirty kitchen” issues that were bothering her. When she was on her fifth request, Harry lost patience and walked away. She had lost focus and had lost her husband's attention by bombarding him with too much at once.

Sue learned her lesson, and the next week she only brought up the kitchen table. This illustrates another benefit of the weekly discussion sessions. A planned time gives you another chance to work through a problem. Harry agreed, and Sue saved her other grievances for another time.