Dealing with accusations in marriage can evoke a powerful desire to protect your dignity. Your hurt feelings might lead you to elaborate on your partner’s shortcomings or avoid spending time with her. This style could keep the argument going for a long time, and eventually destroy the relationship, according to the 2008 book, "Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication." The key to dealing successfully with accusations is to stay positive and practical.
To stay positive, you will need to exercise self-control to respond in a friendly and positive manner. You need strategies that show respect for the accuser while allowing you to maintain your dignity. If you need a few minutes to get control, excuse yourself briefly, explaining that you will be right back. Briefly adjust your feelings to get a grip on negativity; get a drink of water, take a deep breath, say a prayer or repeat a mantra.
Listening Before Responding
Listening before you respond may calm your partner and give you information that can help you grow. Listening does not require you to agree, but only that you try to understand. You can listen actively by reflecting back to your partner what you heard. Questions about your partner's thoughts and feelings can clarify your partner's message as well as indicate that you are concerned about your partner's feelings. If your spouse's accusation is difficult to tolerate, try reframing it in gentler terms. Thank your partner for sharing difficult feelings with you.
Finding Practical Solutions
You and your thoughts and emotions count in your relationship. Your effort to understand sets stage for a cooperative dialog about the dynamic behind the accusations. You might ask your spouse to clarify what the accusation means to her. If you believe your spouse's accusation is valid, you can take responsibility and try to change. Negotiation and compromise might help you find a way forward. If you are unlikely to solve the problem behind the accusation, you may both agree to put the problem on the shelf for a while.
Why Does Your Reaction Matter?
Staying positive can help both you and your partner have more positive emotions and greater relationship satisfaction, according to a 2011 article in "Psychological Science." However, if you join in the negativity, both of you will experience more health and mental health problems and less quality to your daily lives. Negative communication is so destructive, and positive communication is so beneficial that professional help may be a good investment if you and your partner are unable to find a way past the accusations.
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Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.
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