Happy Marriage Monday! Today’s open thread: When you disagree with your partner on something big or small, what’s the one thing that centers you and brings the arguing to a close, beyond the apology? What helps you and your beloved remain balanced?

For me, it’s getting outside of my own head and stop worrying about defending myself and whatever points I think I need to make (because later, those points are usually pointless). 

Instead, what I must practice in the moment of heated discussions is listening and empathy, instead of getting out what I need to say. I am not good at this practice. I am the worst at this. In fact, I suck at it. I fail at it every day. I am a wonderful listener when times are good, but when it’s time to hear about my failings as a partner or what’s going wrong, of course my fingers are going in my ears like I’m 3 years old. So I’m calling myself out here, and maybe I need to get it tattooed on my hand to be a better listener during arguments: STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF. JUST LISTEN.

It’s not like I don’t want to hear what my wife is saying during the best of times. She has the most lovely voice: It’s rough, gorgeous and friendly, like a flowering coconut palm tree bearing plenty of delicious fruit. She makes me laugh with jokes so funny my eyes water and my stomach hurts, which is promising for the long haul. And when she pulls me in for one of her warm, comforting hugs, oh, the world is just right again, and I feel that I can face anything or anyone. She is mine, and I am hers. She helps me balance life.  And I hope I do the same for her. 


Eleven years in and humor has definitely taken us through some difficult times, such as losing my father and my brother to early deaths, losing my mother to sheer emotional abandonment, having and raising twins, having a special-needs son, losing two devoted dogs (true members of the family), being diagnosed with a life-threatening genetic heart condition and then having heart surgery for it, losing Maria’s grandmother to a natural aged death that was still painful, and then, life’s normal quirks and twists. But we’ve made it through with love, some therapy, a few cocktails, our family and a strong circle of devoted friends and each other. I continue to circle back to gratitude and listening. That’s the only way I continue to be better for my wife and I think that’s how we’ll keep mastering arguments, which are a natural, healthy part of marriage. 

What about you? What helps you through you and your partner’s tough conversations? 

Photos: Entwined Studio