Thrive together this holiday season, even if you fight

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Going home for the Holidays at my house usually goes something like this:

Spend all day cooking, laughing and prepping. Things are good, everyone is getting along better than expected. Stress sets in because someone is always late, that someone is me. Everyone starts to get annoyed because they have to keep the food warm until we arrive. We eat and force semi-awkward conversations on how everyone is doing and what their life aspirations are. Always sly and subtle critics on my brother’s life choices and something about how me being freelance isn’t a “real job.” Someone tries to deflect the conversation from themselves and either bring up politics or how someone once did this one thing that was wrong. Then, for the finale, we fight. It usually ends in screaming/crying or just everyone retreating to their own rooms.

This is how I grew up, this is how the holidays went, so when I married my husband, Jake, and had my first Thanksgiving at his house where everyone played board games, smiled the entire time, and took a nap after eating I was in complete culture shock.

We came from totally different backgrounds on handling conflict. Jake came from a place with barely any conflict or no conflict, where I came from a family who screamed it out, literally. We all said exactly what we were thinking when we were thinking it.

As we approached the holidays as a couple, we had to not only navigate how to react in each other’s families, but we had to face how we as a newlywed family would handle conflict and arguments.

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Arguing is unavoidable in marriage or any relationship. You and your partner are going to disagree on something. But, knowing how to argue well and doesn't end in slammed doors and hurt feelings is essential to growing together, These tactics and tips are even true when approaching your family or any relationship, especially this holiday season.

Here are some tips I’ve compiled over the last three years of marriage:

1. Know that you can be wrong or that you can both be wrong.

We usually argue because we believe we are right and the other person is wrong. No matter how much you believe you are right, there is still a chance you could be wrong. Own that truth, as hard as it is. Loving one another is more important than being right.

2. We (usually) only argue with people we love.

When we believe we are right, we argue with people we care about because we desperately want them to see our perspective and see it as truth. When someone loves us and because they are convinced of what they believe, they will naturally want us to believe as they do. That’s reassuring! The person who you love, loves you so much they want you to understand their perspective. Remember that!

3. You are a team.

Approach every argument (family or partner) as a team. You both want the best for each other. Know that, and approach it that way. At the end of this discussion, you are still working together in this world.  

4. It’s not your job to correct one another.

Gosh dangit, but I want the towels folded my way.

Although we sometimes fall into the trap of believing we must fix our partner, grandparent, sibling, etc. The reality is, it’s not your job. You don’t have to fix anyone, ever! Okay, unless you’re a doctor. But, in this scenario - it’s okay to walk away with different outlooks and different perspectives. Let go of shouldering the responsibility of fixing someone. And if they don’t fold the towels the way you think they should be folded, that’s okay too.

5. Know that two people can see/interpret an experience or idea in completely different ways.

That’s okay. Just like you can’t fix them, you also don’t have the same experiences, lifestyle, interpretation as them. We were all created differently and that’s more than okay, it makes the world better. My uncle-in-law always says, if two people have the same idea, one of them is probably useless. Different perspectives help us grow and progress.

My family may still argue during the holidays (if you are reading this fam, I know it has gotten better). But, I like to think it’s gotten better at our house around the holidays because we approach each other with more understanding and love. After absorbing this perspective on healthy arguing, my relationship with my husband and the people around me has drastically changed. I listen more, and I talk less.

With this in mind, may your holiday dinner conversations be more about enjoying one another and not about arguing with grandpa about how millennials lack work-ethic. And may your arguments with your partner over folding towels come from a place of understanding.

Written by Mallory Lehenbauer. Mallory is a storyteller, writer, adventurer, and blogger. Visit her blog for adventures featuring her sassy corgi and incredibly kind husband. 


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