Your partner's behavior and words can have a huge impact on you and on the stability of the marriage. Often couples carry the wholly unrealistic expectation that they should agree on most things. If they don't, they then view their relationship as flawed, when the real problem is the unrealistic belief they've brought into the marriage. When the level of conflict rises as a result of inflated expectations of marital harmony, both partners often begin to act out with negative behaviors. They hurl insults and blame each other for the nasty state of affairs; they despair and fight on. Often, a couple gets stuck in this trading of negative behaviors and comes to the false belief that it spells the end of their marriage.
Here is the problem: Most marriages stay in this power struggle stage for years and do serious permanent damage to their communication system. The partners develop habits of expressing anger and contempt to each other. Each holds the intent of trying to control his partner, rather than respecting and honoring her.
How to Stop the Negative Behavior
No one would dream of taking a brand new baby and handling it harshly. The same should be true for a new love. It is new, impressionable, and needs tenderness, care, and gentleness. Harsh communication from anger destroys love and builds resentment. Caring communication needs to be present if you want your new love to grow.
Is there ever one truth when two partners disagree?
Never. The truth in a relationship always has two viewpoints. Therapists are not “relationship police” who judge who is right and who is wrong. There is just your truth and your partner's truth, and together the communal reality is an agreed-upon consensus. Finding a compromise that works for both is the process of achieving harmony and peace within your relationship. Demanding your partner accept your perception as “the truth” only produces a power struggle.
If couples appear to be unconscious of how they sound when talking to each other, Stephen Martin often recommend the two partners make an audio recording of their disagreements and then listen to how they sound. With this “objective evidence” of the negative behaviors right in front of them, the couple can work toward finding new ways to speak that accomplish the task without destroying the love. Just as football players watch game tapes to improve their passing and blocking skills, if couples are serious about building a better marriage the partners can use a replay system to improve their communication skills.
It's important to realize that people have different tolerances for conflict. Some like to blow off steam, and feel better immediately afterward. Some find such verbal venting terrifying. Many others fall somewhere in between these two extremes. One issue to settle early in a marriage is which category you and your partner fall in. If one is a screamer and the other finds such behavior intolerable, you have a serious difference requiring attention and compromise.
Communication is not just what is said, but just as important it includes what is not said. If you have a breakdown in communication, it becomes essential that you immediately fix the problem. If you cannot fix it by yourselves, get outside help. Marital mediation, pastoral couples counseling, or professional marriage therapy are the best professional services to assist you in getting back on course and resuming effective communication.