It's overly simplistic to think that couples who fight are doomed while those who don't have healthy marriages. Regardless of the manner in which you choose to air your differences, having a ratio of 5-to-1 where the positive feelings and actions outweigh the negative generally results in a satisfying marriage, according to John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, and his co-author Nan Silver in the "Psychology Today" article "What Makes Marriage Work?" Volatile couples, for example, may have heated, passionate arguments followed by intense making up. When balanced, the marriage remains solid.
Criticism and Absolutes
Spouses tend to complain about things their partners do. This type of honesty is important for the survival of your marriage. Your commitment to your spouse can deepen when you are both emotionally honest regarding your fears, anger, frustration or sadness, according to therapist Chris Lewis in the article "Four Habits That Destroy Marriage" on the Maria Droste Counseling Center website. When the complaints go unheard or your spouse makes little or no effort to change, complaints may quickly become personal criticism. For example, you may resort to using absolutes, such as "You never make time for me anymore," instead of saying "I miss our long talks. Let's steal some alone time together."
A sure way to build a wall between partners is to keep score during fights and arguments, according to licensed mental health professional Erika Krull in the Psych Central article "Marriage Communication: 3 Common Mistakes and How To Fix Them." This can be the result of feeling insecure and may ultimately cause your spouse to shut down and cease communication. The more one partner feels the need to be right or superior, the more negativity enters the marriage. The arguments turn from critical to contemptuous. It becomes difficult to see the positive traits in your spouse.
Sealed With Armor
When spouses become defensive, they generally stop listening to one another. While the wife is talking, the husband is thinking of how to defend himself, or vice versa. Partners begin to speak at each other, rather than to each other. This can cause the issues in a marriage to escalate, according to Gottman and Silver. One or both spouses may deny they have any part in the issue and refuse to see each other's point of view. Excuses become common language when spouses become defensive. Empathy and understanding are crucial for breaking through defensiveness. Listen to your spouse and hear the information without taking it personally. This will increase open and honest communication.
Often, a spouse may vent to a friend or relative about issues in the marriage out of frustration while unaware that this may weaken the marital bond. Venting can make you feel better in the short term, but constantly talking about your spouse or approaching your spouse with a negative tone or attitude can weaken your marriage over time. Begin to increase positivity in your marriage by doing little things for your partner to show you care. Rather than holding all of your feelings in and sharing them with someone else, cool off and set aside time to discuss your thoughts and feelings.