“My husband and I just had our worst fight ever” – my client, stepmom of 2, relayed to me as her voice quivered.
She was at a loss for how to make things right, and more importantly she had no idea how to prevent something like that from happening again.
And she’s not alone.
Remarried couples with children argue more often, more quickly, and more fiercely than their counterparts who get married without kids from a previous relationship.
Arguing well is a foundational skill that stepmoms like us need the most – but we’re not really taught how to do this in school.
Here are 3 simple steps that I use in my own marriage and with my clients so we fight less intensely with our spouses and actually create more closeness in our marriages:
Process anger – don’t react to it:
Easier said than done, but reacting when you’re angry or frustrated is like throwing gasoline on a raging fire. It never helps. So the next time you feel your blood boiling and you want to yell at your spouse – Pause. Breath. Walk away if you need to. Let yourself feel angry, but process it on your own, without yelling or lashing out. Punch some pillows, go on a walk, meditate.
Comfort yourself – and think about your partner
Be compassionate with yourself – think about why you’re so mad in the first place. Comfort yourself like you would a small child (sounds weird, but it works). Then, think about what’s going on for your spouse. Why might he or she have reacted this way or said that thing or not done what you’d hoped? Imagine this person had the best of intentions in mind. Then what?
Be kind – then make a request for dialogue.
After you’ve comforted yourself and put yourself in your partner’s shoes, you’re ready to talk. Approach your spouse gently, from a place of kindness: “Hey honey, I know these past couple months/ last night/ today has been really tough. I want you to know that I love you.”
Then, make a request for dialogue: “It’s really important to me that we figure out how to deal with this situation. Do you mind if we have a discussion about it to get on the same page?”
Then discuss. Listen. Compromise.
Any one of us can have the exact marriage we want with our partners – we just need a little practice.
These steps work – but they’re not easy to implement at first, so be patient and kind with yourself. You will get there.