Focus on clearly and consistently communicating what you want and need, and truly listening for what your partner wants and needs. And recognize that they won’t always be the same. That’s why I teach a system on temperaments: recognizing your priorities and that of your partner, and how they differ, so that you can understand your own desires and recognize and live in harmony with theirs.
ESSENCE: Do you feel a couple can avoid “arguing” all together? If so, why or why not? And, how?
Zara: It’s important to note that you cannot avoid disagreements. You are two different individuals with different experiences, temperaments and ways of seeing the world. However, in healthy relationships, disagreements don’t routinely lead to arguments, but to resolutions. The inability to safely disagree breeds fear, insecurity, bitterness and distrust; these are much bigger threats to your marriage than anything you might disagree on, and will increase the destructive capacity of even the smallest arguments.
ESSENCE: Realistically speaking, what role do you feel “arguments” play in a marriage? What role should they play?
Alfred: To the degree that arguments are adversarial, there is no place for them in a healthy relationship. (It’s like the left hand fighting with the right hand, as if they weren’t created to be different.) It is healthy for you and your partner to be able to safely express disagreement with one another. It is unhealthy for you to routinely become adversarial. Just because arguments are common in marriage does not mean they are acceptable.
Zara: The role of disagreement—merely the expression of differences, and therefore, individual uniqueness—between two people is to be a catalyst for learning about one another and growing together. There is no greater gift than sharing life and love with someone who is healthy for you, but different from you. You will always challenge, fascinate and inspire one another to do what we are all created to do—learn, grow and love. When you can’t agree on what the answer is, you can move forward and find out together.
ESSENCE: What do you find couples argue most about and how can they solve that?
Zara: The two biggies are sex and money. That’s why relationships built on the desire for these things (what we call attractors in our book) are nearly always unhappy and usually unsustainable. Sexual desires come and go. Money gets funny. Both are the fruit, not the root, of a great relationship; they go in and out of season. The best way to avoid arguing over them is to not make them the foundation of your relationship in the first place. If you’ve made that mistake and you’re already in it, you’ve only got two options—end the marriage, or renegotiate the terms of your relationship, focusing on the lasting values of healthy, sustainable unions: honor, esteem and respect. No argument can destroy a marriage built on that foundation.
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