Arguments happen. Despite what you’ve read, “happily ever after” is not the goal.
And that’s a good thing.
It puts too much pressure on our happy relationships to be perfectly in sync all the time. The longer we live and grow together, the more we tend to accept that discord and disagreements are part of our relationship “ever after.”
And that’s totally fine. There’s no shame in it. Imperfect people simply don’t live perfect, harmonious lives. Two individuals sharing space, needs, desires, perspectives, a family, and more will eventually bump heads.
The key is to learn how to offer comfort and care during those times without emotionally bruising each other or doing lasting damage to your union.
So how do we join those resilient, secure, and happy couples whose relationships handle discord in stride?
These following five strategies may make all the difference.
1. Look Up and Look Inside
Happy couples are able to keep their eyes on the relationship prize. The ability to slow things down and seek clarity prevents ongoing disharmony.
When we can tap into our core beliefs about God and each other we are reconnected to something bigger than our disagreements. And when we start with internal awareness, instead of external blame, compassion and personal responsibility soothe the need to fan argumentative flames.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
This verse reminds us to take our eyes off each other and search our faith and our own hearts first.
Happy people tap into wisdom. Only one perfect person exists at the heart our relationships. His guidance is ever-available, but we must seek it and employ it.
Unfortunately, not all of us have the ability to hear him all the time. So discord happens. The blessing is knowing where to find instruction.
We know we are meant to be complementary and supportive. When we don’t know how to effectively cooperate with a partner, we have the privilege of prayer, scripture, and wise counsel as lights on the path to mutual happiness.
2. Go “There”
Avoidance is a happy couple’s nemesis. Marriage is a reflection of God’s love for His church. There is nothing avoidant about it.
We can be bold when we come together. We can make our individual cases, secure in His love for us and our desire to reflect that love, even as we disagree.
Content and loving couples can go to uncomfortable places in their relationship because the picture is bigger. No need to let things fester or snowball. No need to live in anxiety.
Our strengths and weaknesses aren’t to be dismissed or hidden from each other. We don’t need to stuff our feelings or ignore sensitive topics out of fear.
Happiness comes from knowing our relationships aren’t fragile, but up to the test. And if there are cracks in the foundation, we have the advantage of faith-based support, community fellowship, and therapeutic help that can make our relationships better.
3. Communicate with Openness, Honesty, and Humor
No happy couples remain happy without communication. It is a non-negotiable relationship must-have if vulnerability and empathy are meant to develop well.
Sharing respectfully, clearly, and compassionately during an argument is a skill worth building as early in relationships as possible. When we can trust each other enough to speak our mind without fear of unbalanced retaliation, passive aggression, or withdrawal, a deeper connection can be enjoyed.
To that same end, when we can temper irritation with bits of loving humor (not sarcasm) and a smile, the relationship can stand separately from the issue. Then, resolutions don’t feel like capitulation but mutual decisions to restore peace.
4. Consider Sacrifice Over Scoring Points
Happy couples put each other first.
Discord happens, but it doesn’t alienate them from each other. No one “wins” unless they both win. No one is satisfied that a problem is resolved if either party feels disrespected or dishonored.
Happy couples are willing to lay down their own wants for the sake of compromise and flexibility. Don’t we all want to know that our partners would sacrifice greatly to protect us, stand with us, make a life with us through the challenges?
Consider the small sacrifices of pride and ego we make as repeated assurances of commitment and connection. Efforts to defeat the idea that either partner is ever a loser places a high value on your relationship. Don’t allow pettiness or anything purposefully hurtful to divide you.
5. Think in Terms of Differences, not Deadlocks
Did you know that well-known relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman estimates that 70 percent of marital discord simply cannot be resolved? He calls it “perpetual” conflict.
And that is perfectly okay!
Happy couples embrace the idea. They appreciate the fact that they are team members who bring different personalities, dispositions, and life experiences to the marriage mix.
There is no way to agree on everything, and the fact that you don’t is healthy. If you never disagree, someone is likely being dishonest or being dominated.
So the key is learning to see the beauty of your differences. Tap into the grace and mercy we each are given. Our spouses are beautifully different. Hinging our happiness on melded opinions, preferences, or temperaments is unnecessary. We need not throw tantrums or toss truer connections because we don’t see eye to eye.
We do ourselves much more good if we love with compassion and a willingness to let each other maintain the integrity of our individual convictions. Cooperatively, we can talk things through and work out “good enough” solutions. Intentionally, we can forgive slights and move on.
The benefit to the relationship far supersedes the benefits of forcing each other to surrender.
Happy Couples are Couples Who Do the Work
All in all, for those who feel anxious about marital discord, be encouraged! Healthy, happy couples argue and disagree.
Just remember: preventative care and responsive repair are a happy couple’s best answers to disagreements.
The five strategies above are helpful first steps to strengthen your relationship. Yet, we all have special circumstances, challenges, and relationship needs that, at times, require more support and ongoing attention.
Couples therapy can provide such support.
If you’re ready to work together, please contact me soon for a consultation.
For more information about couples or marriage counseling click here.
About the Author
Julia Nelson, LPCA, LMFTA is a psychotherapist and owns a private practice in Flat Rock and Forest City, NC. In general, she specializes in couples counseling, anxiety and depression counseling, premarital counseling, and parenting classes. She is also a Certified Clinical Military Counselor. To find out more about Julia click here: Nelson Christian Counseling.
Want tools for your life and relationship? Get my latest blog post by liking my Facebook page here.