When it comes to marriage and relationship, there are a lot of myths out there. Here are five of the most common.
Myth 1: Good couples don’t argue.
The presence or absence of arguments is not a good indicator of the health of a marriage. Some couples who don’t argue are living detached, parallel lives. They’ve essentially checked out of the marriage and have given up caring. These couples are vulnerable to emotional and sexual affairs and/or divorce.
In contrast, some couples who argue vigorously, enjoy deep affection and respect – they argue with freedom because they know that the relationship is robust enough to handle it.
Myth 2: ‘Irreconcilable differences’ mean the relationship is over.
Research by Dr John Gottman suggests that every couple has a number of ‘unresolvable’ arguments. Spouses keep having the same argument over and over and never seem to resolve it. The marriages that survive do so because the couple put more value on what they have in common. They learn how to tolerate their differences and work with them.
Ultimately, many of our ‘irreconcilable differences’ are simply ‘outgrown’ – for example arguments over parenting disappear as the child grows out of that stage.
Myth 3: Arguments damage your relationship.
The arguments that damage relationship are the ones where there is no self-regulation, where the spouses say or do things that cause deep wounds that are then ignored.
Arguments that are tempered by self-discipline so that both spouses are careful in how they present their case, will be more productive in resolving the issue and less likely to wound the heart of the participants. And when there is wounding, good couples seek out each other, apologise, forgive and reconcile in such a way that they actually make their relationship stronger than it was before.
For more on reconciliation: here
Myth 4: It’s better to say what’s on your mind than bottle it up.
Interestingly, explosive outbursts of anger don’t always help alleviate the building internal tension. These sorts of arguments tend to cause defensiveness which reinforces the anger in the initiator rather than dissipating it. So, anger shared becomes anger multiplied.
A more productive way to deal with mounting anger is to process it with a trusted and mature friend, counsellor or mentor so that you can approach your spouse and calmly express your feelings and make a request for change.
Myth 5: Every argument is different.
Actually, the essential elements of every argument are the same. That’s why we often have a sense of deju vu when we argue; it feels like we’ve already had this debate. The topic may be different, but there is a pattern of reaction and response that follows a predictable path.
Read more about the Anatomy of an Argument: here
Quiz: What’s your ‘argument’ style?
- Do you yell and shout?
- Do you swear and name-call?
- Do you shut down and refuse to talk?
- Do you become ultra calm and rational?
- What physical gestures do you use – eg pointing the finger, shaking a fist, banging the table, hitting, kicking, rolling your eyes to heaven, glaring etc.
- Do you cold war – no conversation, no warmth, just stony silence?
- Do you use passive aggression – subtly undercut your spouse without being open that you are upset?
- Do bring up the past to bolster your case?
- Do you withdraw to cool off?
- Do you express your feelings or mainly make accusations?
- Do write your complaint down rather than say it?
- Do you threaten violence or divorce?