how we handle the sour notes

I found this list when I was digging through a box in our closet. It was given to us during our pre-wedding, one-day church retreat. It's a list of things to keep in mind when you're in the middle of an argument with your better half.

1. Don't call each other names
2. Don't involve others in your argument (mother-in-law, brother-in-law, etc)
3. Don't bring up old stories/complaints (stories that are more than 48hrs old shouldn't be brought up again)
4. Stay on the subject at hand and get to the point.
5. No low blows allowed - such as rubbing in character flaws.
6. Don't go to bed upset at each other.
7. Maintain a sense of humor. Laughing can be the best remedy.
8. Hold each others hands and look into each others eyes. Make the choice of love.

What have we really done? Have we followed these rules?

1. Yes. We've never called each other anything hurtful.
2, 4 and 5. Yep. No problems there.
3. This was a hard one for me to get used to. It REALLY works though. We've stuck to it all these yrs and it help a lot. If MrZ or I have a gripe and we don't bring it up in 48hrs = tough luck. This has forced us to be really good about solving things quickly; there's no pile up, hence no unexpected explosions. I think this rule has the best long term results out of all them.
6. Not always. MrZ gets over things so quickly, which is kind of maddening in itself. I need to stew for a bit before I'm officially over it.
7. Yes. We've actually burst out laughing in the middle of a so-called argument.
8. No not really. The last thing I want to do is hold my Mr's hands when we're in the middle of it.

I'll add one that we stick to...
9. No arguments in front of the kids or anyone for that matter. It all stays between the two of us.

Any rules you go by?

Something pretty to end on a good note. These are the lovelies we see in our yard once a year. This weekend I will definitely be getting my hands in some dirt. Our yard is desperately calling out and I happen to find weeding relaxing if you can believe that.


  1. Great post and thanks for all the reminders of what you should do.

    Like you, it's so hard to not bring up past tiffs.

    I'm going to email this to my boyfriend as a reminder as we certainly do things we shouldn't at times. :)

  2. Nice list. We always kiss each other goodnight, even if we've been disagreeing about something. It's hard to go to sleep angry after a little peck on the cheek!

  3. I love it! I'm moving in with my boyfriend next month, which we're really excited about. I'm going to share this with him. :)

  4. What a great list! Thanks for sharing it. I'm fairly newlywed, so I'm thinking of tacking this up on the fridge!

    Oh, and I'm with you on the hand-holding thing. To everything, there is a season...

  5. This is a really nice list. I´d add "no arguments in front of people", not just kids. I mean, no one needs to listen to a couple arguing, right? I have friends, whom I love dearly, who feel so comfortable with me that they can have huge arguments in front of me. As much as I love them, I hate being there.

    And yes, I´m with you, I need time to cool off too. Sometimes I go to bed upset but try to wake up not upset anymore.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Billy - I'm going to edit that to include not fighting in front of anyone aside from the kids, because I totally agree with that! I'd forgotten that one. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Remember the difference between 'big stuff' and 'little stuff'.

    It's worked for 21 years (last week!)

  8. That is a good list. I will admit I'm a big believer in going to bed angry. Sometimes staying awake just causes the arguement to get worse.

  9. Good one! And congratulations on your anniversary!

  10. That's a really good list!

    I try to remember that my husband is my best friend. So if I'm upset about something, most likely, whatever happened wasn't meant to hurt me...and same the other way. If I remember to look at the facts, rather than my emotions, usually I can calm down really quickly.

  11. I think Brian and I saw a list like this when we were reading marriage books together while we were still dating. I think these are great points to resolve conflict. Thanks for the reminder!

    Something that me and B also try to do is to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. Trying to understand the other person's point of view. Even though we still might not agree, I think a huge part of a lot of arguments is misunderstanding, so we always make the time to make sure we fully understand each other.

  12. What a great and real post. It sounds like the two of you have loads of common ground.

  13. Great rules to fight by. I, too, "stew" a little after an argument. ;-)

  14. The jury is still out for me on the issue of arguing in front of the kids. I read that it is important for kids to see parents argue AND resolve issues, because that is a normal part of a relationship, and it is their only live example of an intimate relationship.
    I grew up with parents who never argued in front of the kids and only at age 40 did it finally really kick in that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. So I'm a little slow, I know, but still...
    thanks for the reminders!

  15. Thanks for the great advice; everybody needs those reminders from time to time :)

  16. Great list! Here are a couple to add:

    Even if we're arguing, he always kisses me goodbye before he leaves for work in the morning. You can't really stay mad when you're kissing.

    Also, I never badmouth him to my friends, and I believe he does the same. What's the point of stirring up more anger? I'm not saying I won't mention problems we have, but I never put him down or say bad things about him. It just doesn't seem right.

  17. Anat has the same point I was thinking. I teach in a primary school and I am saddened by the lack of skills children have when it comes to conflict resolution. I have spent the good part of this school year trying to teach and model this to a particularly difficult class who favour name calling and low emotional and phsical blows as a means to get their point across. Don't argue the big stuff in front of them but please arm your children with the skills you obviously have. Also I think that it shows them that a loving relationship is not actually one where you are in constant agreement you can love someone and not agree with them. (I have not had a successful marriage and left an abusive relationship when the kids were very little (they are now on the cusp of adulthood!)- modeling that it is good to stand up for yourself and not accepting what is not healthy for you but I do lament the fact that I have not been able to model a sucessful relationship to them to take into their adult life.