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  • 'We Don't Fight To Win': How A Couple's 'Scheduled Arguments' Brought Harmony To Their Marriage

    A family expert says delaying discussions is a mindful and intentional way of resolving disagreements.
    by Dahl D. Bennett . Published Sep 20, 2023
'We Don't Fight To Win': How A Couple's 'Scheduled Arguments' Brought Harmony To Their Marriage
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a discussion with your spouse has suddenly escalated to a full-blown argument? It happens to the best of us, especially when discussions are unplanned. The other party may be caught off-guard or simply not in that state of preparedness enough for him or her to think clearly.    

    To avoid such situations, married couple Charisse and Mikey Llorin found that scheduling one-on-one time to discuss ‘something that went wrong or could have gone better’ helped them avoid sweeping issues under the rug. “When you're busy, you forget or don't have the energy to hash things out anymore,” admits Charisse. “Scheduling our one-on-one in advance means that we can ensure uninterrupted talk time.”   

    They found the approach both productive and beneficial. More importantly, the anticipation makes them more ready to hear the other out. “This allows me to appreciate his thought process and consider other variables that I might have not been aware of,” she says.    

    Miriam College’s Associate Director for the Center for Peace Education, licensed psychologist and Smart Parenting Board of Experts member, Dr. Gail Frances Galang, says that in the context of peace advocacy, scheduling arguments can also be called ‘structured conflict resolution.’ “It’s a mindful and intentional way to resolve disagreements,” she defines.

    She adds that it can also mean a ‘systematic way of arguing’ where the couple is clear about what they aim to resolve, thus opening a safe and respectful environment between them.   

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    Finding the best time to talk   

    “I started requesting one-on-one time when our schedules got really busy,” recalls Charisse. The first time she initiated it through text, Mikey got so worried that he wanted to talk over the phone right then and there. “I don't blame him. Nakakapraning naman when you get a message like that out of the blue,” she says.    

    The best time to schedule an argument varies from couple to couple. For the Llorins, the ideal time is when they can talk without interruptions. “For me, it's when my work and chores are done and when my son's settled and doing something he likes. Otherwise, he will keep interrupting and even try to join the conversation” says Charisse.   


    'I could say, "you did this and that had this effect on me." I can't say, "you did this because you're so thoughtless and uncaring."' —Charisse Llorin on ground rules during arugments

    According to Dr. Galang, a suitable time is when both parties are calm and ready, “I would advise scheduling it when both have had adequate sleep and enough time to personally reflect on the issue, including how one has contributed to the problem. This way couples come to the table with humility and accountability, having a genuine desire to collaborate on finding a solution together.”     

    RELATED: You Can't Avoid Fighting In Front Of The Kids. How To Do It Without Scaring Them 

    Setting the ground rules   

    Charisse says she and her husband never came around to articulating their ground rules every time they have their one-on-one time, but they always keep an atmosphere of respect. “When it comes to fights, our rule was to be careful about the kinds of attributions we make. Like, it's fair game to call out problematic behavior or choices, but we don't attribute it to the person’s character or personhood,” she explains.

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    “For example, I could say, ‘you did this and that had this effect on me.’ I can't say, ‘you did this because you're so thoughtless and uncaring.’ We don't make excuses for each other, but we do try to give each other the benefit of the doubt,” she adds.    

    'Do not try too hard to resolve a conflict. Some deeper issues take time to resolve and may even require the help of a professional to act as a mediator.' —Dr. Gail Galang, psychologist and family expert

    It’s tempting to give in to one’s temper and defend one’s argument even when it’s scheduled; thus, mindfulness plays a crucial role in its success, says Dr. Galang. She gives some strategies for arguments to have a positive outcome:   

    1. Non-judging.

    This means avoiding the tendency to automatically blame the other spouse for hurt feelings. It also means not taking the full blame just to end the argument without really dissecting the issue.   

    2. Patience.

    Listening to each other requires patience. This is why it is best to schedule an important marital discussion when both have time away from chores and work tasks.   


    3. Beginner's mind.

    Not all problems have the same exact conditions. Avoid saying, “We’ve gone through this before and you never learn.” Having a beginner’s mind means starting with a fresh mind, so that there is room to try other solutions.   

    4. Non-striving.

    This means not trying too hard to resolve a conflict. Some deeper issues take time to resolve and may even require the help of a professional to act as a mediator. Sometimes trying too hard to fix things adds more strain to the relationship.    

    5. Letting go.

    Since you value the relationship with your spouse more than winning an argument, there are issues that are not worth fighting about. There is a saying that goes “Sometimes, it is better to be kind than to be right.”   

    To resolve conflicts, it is important for both parties to be fully on board and “recognize that something needs fixing,” says Dr. Galang.    


    Benefits to a marriage   

    Ever since they adopted the approach, the Llorin’s felt the positive impact of their scheduled one-on-one time to their relationship.    

    For one, it helped them change the goal of their fights and arguments. “We don't fight to win. We fight so we can find a better way moving forward,” says Charisse. The approach also helped them avoid burying resentments.

    “I have seen so many marriages grow cold because of resentment. When I make the time and space to talk about issues, conflicts, or hurt feelings, I'm better able to heal, learn, and love,” she adds    

    For couples who decide schedule their discussions like they have, Charise advises that they should be able to adapt a mindset of winning as a couple. “Remember that you're on the same team--the only way to win is to win together,” she concludes.    

    Gail Reyes Galang, PhD is a licensed psychologist and a member of the Smart Parenting Board of Experts. Follow Dr. Gail on Instagram @gailfrancesgalang.

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