Learning to Communicate When You’re Afraid of Disagreement

My husband and I just bought our first house, and there have been a lot of decisions we’ve had to make about how to fix it up and put it together, decisions that I care about—a lot.

One of these decisions was what color to paint the living room, which was a dreary shade of beige that really needed to go. The living room became a small point of contention because of our different tastes: I wanted celery green—he preferred yellow.

It’s frightening for me to figure out how to communicate when I don’t agree with my husband, since I never had a good example of healthy disagreement when I was growing up. I’m used to seeing spouses who never give into the other, and so every decision is a fight.

My gut reaction in my own marriage, then, is to anticipate a fight and speak up in defense of my position or to completely submit to my husband’s wishes to maintain the peace, even if there’s no sign of a conflict.

When it came to explaining to my husband how I envisioned the color of the living room, I spoke heatedly, but I had no reason to. My husband is extremely even-tempered and he was confused as to why I suddenly sounded so upset.

Shamefully, I realized what I was doing: I feared he wouldn’t agree with me and would force me into a decision I didn’t want. I would then see the color of the living room walls every day for the rest of my life and become embittered by it (truly, this is what my anxious mind thought).

I realized this was ridiculous and so I calmed down and tried again to explain my thoughts and desires, this time without being on the defensive. And he explained to me what he wanted. We approached the problem of deciding on a color for the living room this time on the same page and managed to find one we both like.

Trying to decide on a color for the living room was not the fight I feared it would be, which taught me something about relationships. Disagreements, while inevitable in marriage, are not to be feared or avoided. They are opportunities to understand and learn about each other better.

My husband isn’t like the men in the marriages that have been my unfortunate examples. He’s much more open-minded and willing to listen to me, which makes me love him even more.

And I learned that communication is a much bigger area in love than I thought it would be. I not only have to be brave enough to speak up for my own desires, but I have to know how to communicate them well—and not start a fight over a conflict that wasn’t really there in the first place.

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