The first rule of home ownership is that things are going to break. When you can’t call the landlord, the next person in line is you. I suck at home repair. I often tell my wife, ‘You didn't marry that person.’ I can do basic repairs and maintenance, but if Google can’t show me, then I can’t do it.
To overcompensate for this fact, I bring my ability to argue to our relationship.
Case in point, we had a light fixture in the kitchen that was giving us fits. We bought a new one, but the instillation of said light fixture was not going well. (Our house is a bit old) After about two weeks of me cooking in the dark, my clearly frustrated wife, went behind my back and called an electrician. This particular electrician’s slogan was, essentially, we are always on time. When they weren't I was able to get the service call waived. A $150 bill was reduced to $50, and we received a year of no trip charges. In my mind that is the same as doing it yourself.
You see, prior to my current gig as super-dad, I worked in the hotel industry for over 10 years. The front office of a hotel is essentially conflict resolution. So when my wife and I argue, she is at a distinct disadvantage. (Please note my wife and I never fight, because she is perfect)
From a platonic customer service standpoint angry customers are very easy; Listen, apologize, empathize, fix, and compensate. The acronym is wrong, but that is basically the Marriott playbook 101.
With our spouses, though, things can get more heated, and playing lip service to your spouse only hurts you in the long run. Don’t worry, I am here for you. There are five very easy rules to follow when having an argument with your spouse. When you follow them, your relationship will win every time.
1. Don’t argue if they are not there. This is both the most important and the most difficult. Even as someone who lives by these rules, I struggle with this, and find myself constantly reminding my wife. Maybe it’s the bowl on the counter, the dirty sock on the floor, or maybe it is something that is really serious. You begin to imagine in your head how the conversation is going to go. Only you’re half of the conversation, so you have to imagine what the other person is going to say. You think to yourself, I’m going to say this, then they will say this, and I’ll come back with this…Boom that will teach them. In your head you think your being smart and game planning how the conversation is going to go. All you are doing is making yourself angry and making it more difficult to reach a positive solution. Stop having arguments in your head with a person who isn't there.
2. Never raise your voice or curse. This is so simple, and yet in the heat of the moment it is easy to forget. At the hotel, if you curse at me the conversation is over, until you can speak like an adult. I don’t care if you found a small family of rats making a home in your bed. If you drop the F bomb, we are done. This is your spouse you’re talking to. The mother or father of your children. Either you respect each other or you don’t. Remember words have meaning, and can hurt. Did you seriously just call your significant other a fucking bitch? Apologize asshole.
3. Fight like your kids are watching. This goes hand in hand with #2. You are the people who will teach your children how conflict should be resolved. If you don’t think they are watching, you are wrong. Children see and absorb everything, so give them the tools they need to be healthy adults. When I was a kid, my parents would send us to our room, where we would listen at the door to them screaming at each other. As an advanced move, have disagreements with your children in the room. My wife and I try to always have budget meetings, in front of the kids. They should see that life is a struggle, but two like minded people can compromise, which brings us to number four.
4. Know the end point is the same for both parties. It’s tough, I get it. Both my wife and I are very strong willed people, not inclined to backing down. If it is involving MY kids, and I think it is important, I’m going to fight for them. Keep in mind so is your spouse. They are not disagreeing with you, because they like to fuck with you. They also want what is best for THEIR kid. The odds that two people from different walks of life, and different experiences will come together with the same parenting styles is about the same as you being struck by lightning. Even if we agree on 95% of what is important, I’m still going to fight like the dickens for the remaining 5% to go my way. (Did I just say dickens???) Just keep in mind that at the end of the day, you both want happy healthy children. We came up with core values that we want to instill in our children, family, and personal lives. When you are fighting, ask yourself, ‘How does this support our core values.’
5. Pause, reset, and do-overs. I can’t tell you how many times this has come to the rescue. It’s Saturday, your day to sleep in, but the kids get up early and your entire day starts off on the wrong foot. Before you know it, you find yourself bickering with your spouse. Have a do over, because you’re not really mad at each other, you’re mad that on the one day the kids can sleep in, those bastards got up at six am. My wife and I will literally go lay back down, and pretend to start the day over, taking extra care to tell each other how much we love them. You will also find yourself in situations where you just don’t have the time or focus to give a topic the attention it deserves. You must be able to compartmentalize enough to pause the fight, while Jimmy gets taken to soccer practice. This goes hand in hand with phone calls and text. You’re having a nice conversation, but something sets one of you off. Stop fighting on the phone, no good will come of it. Tell the person you love them, remember #4, and wait until you are together.
Whoever told you that marriage was all sunshine and roses was an idiot. Don’t listen to that person anymore. Listen to me. Think of your marriage like your home…shit is going to break. You are going to fight, you are going to be angry, and you are going to have cases of SAS. (Shaken Adult Syndrome) Take some deep breaths and follows these rules, you will be fine, and your relationship will be better for it.