“You spend so much money. Do you think it grows on trees?”
“You don’t do any of your chores. You just expect me to clean up after you.”
“You are always working. Your work matters more to you than your family.”
Conflicts surrounding money, housework, and priorities are commonplace in most, if not all, marriages. But some couples manage to navigate these challenges, while in others the relationship breaks down. Why is this?
Successful communication and resolution of conflicts often has to do with how you say things rather than what you say.
This is where “I” statements come in. “I” statements allow you to have a non-accusatory, open conversation that addresses the actual issues at hand.
Here is a guide covering how you can change your language to change the outcome of many common conflicts, setting your marriage up for success.
“You” statements, such as the examples above, begin with the pronoun “you.” They imply that the listener is somehow responsible or “in trouble” for whatever the issue is.
A “you” statement is automatically accusatory. And it tends to make your spouse feel defensive and resentful, rather than open to the message you’re trying to convey. When you have an issue, it’s vital that you convey that you are having trouble with something — versus your partner being “in trouble with you”.
In contrast to a “you” statement, an “I” statement takes responsibility for what we’re thinking and feeling. And it’s less accusatory to our spouse.
The focus is shifted not to what your spouse is doing wrong — or who’s “in trouble” — but rather on how you feel and how the issue could be resolved.
Notice how the below statements convey the same message as above, but in a much more approachable way:
“I’m concerned about our financial stability, and feel like we both need to take a look at our spending.”
“I feel like the house is messy, yet I’m still spending a lot of time cleaning. Can we take another look at the chores we’re each supposed to be doing?”
“I know your work is important to you. But as your family, the kids and I need to feel important, too. How can we make time for this?”
In short, conflict is inherent to any marriage, especially in these trying times. Often, the issue isn’t whether you have a specific conflict, but rather how you communicate with your spouse to resolve it.
Are You Struggling to Resolve Conflicts in Your Marriage?
Contact us for more relationship advice and marriage counseling programs.