The Morning After: How to Resolve an Argument on Christmas Morning Tensions can run extremely high with everything the holidays bring. In case you hit maximum capacity with your spouse in the anger department, use these 3 tips. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Don't let an unresolved argument put a damper on your Christmas morning.
“ In most marriages where there is regard and respect for one another, the couple can agree to put aside their differences for the sake of the family.”
You and your partner went to a holiday party and your spouse made a joke about you to one of the guests, which made you mad, and now youíre in a fight. There is only silence on your drive home from the party, but upon your return home, the fight erupts into an all out battle, with every other hurt thatís ever happened in your relationship thrown at the other like lightning.
Or, itís Christmas Eve and you and your spouse start arguing about how to wrap the gifts. You think heís careless and he thinks youíre too picky. This starts the argument cycle where he feels criticized by you, and you feel like your opinion is not important. This argument gains momentum by each of you attacking and defending, shaming and blaming, and using the words "always" and "never." The fight doesnít get resolved, and you both go to bed angry.
Now, itís Christmas morning, and itís only minutes until your kids wake up happy and excited to see what Santa left for them under the tree. Or, if you donít have kids, youíre just hours away from your familyís arrival for the holiday festivities. What do you do? You have choices:
1. Call a truce. The quickest solution for the moment is to call a truce and agree to put the differences aside for discussion at a later time; after all, it is Christmas and you donít want to ruin the day for everyone or yourselves. Calling a truce will take immense discipline and maturity to not continue the fight from the previous night. If you both wake up, and he turns the other way, take the high road and call the truce. In most marriages where there is regard and respect for one another, the couple can agree to put aside their differences for the sake of the family. However, in an unhealthy marriage where regard and respect are questionable, a truce is probably out of the question.
2. Talking ASAP. Upon awakening, the couple may decide that they need to talk about what happened before they can carry on their day. This requires talking ASAP before the kids get up or the family arrives. Hereís how to do it without it turning into another fight:
* Agree to hear each otherís point of view with no interruptions, which means really listening and putting yourself in your partnerís shoes to see it from their point of view, without making yourself wrong. This means that although youíre seeing it from their side, it doesnít invalidate your feelings or point of view.
* No blaming, shaming, or the need to be right. Agree to disagree.
* Remember that you love each other, so try to understand what the other is saying to you, and give your partner the benefit of the doubt that they do have a valid point and are entitled to their feelings.
3. Fake it till you make it. If a truce is out of the question, and you canít talk because youíre still too angry, but yet itís Christmas, youíve got no choice but to continue your day as is. The best way to get through the day is to "try" to stay out of each otherís way, "try" your hardest not to let your anger and hurt spill out to others, and "try" to be respectful to your spouse. By "faking it till you make it," you might actually feel better about yourself and your spouse, enabling you to really get into the holiday spirit. After all, itís really hard to stay angry when you see the joy of your children opening their gifts, or the jokes that are being passed around the room, or the love that you feel for your family as they interact on this special holiday.
If youíre able to call a truce or talk before the event, thatís a good sign. It doesnít necessarily mean you resolved the underlying issues that started the fight, but it does indicate that you both have the ability to let things go for the short-term or resolve the issues enough to have a good day. In many cases by the time you get back to the argument you'll both have cooled off and forgotten what you were angry about in the first place. But if an important event, such as Christmas, doesnít alter your anger toward one another for the sake of your family, faking it till you make it is just a band-aid that is really covering bigger issues that need to be resolved sooner than later.
How we resolve our arguments is a barometer that indicates the health of our marriages. Make resolving your arguments a priority in your marriage so that youíll never have another "morning after."
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.