I feel like we do fairly well at navigating through the choppy waters of misunderstandings and arguments...most of the time.
We learned early on about the rules of "fighting fair" and have learned even more lessons, through trial and error (and a handful of ugly crying episodes), about how each other deals with conflict between us.
While we are far from perfect in regard to the ins and outs of marriage conflict, I do think that we have unwrapped a treasure that is going to help us grow old together and remain in love as we continue to seek to delight in one another.
Oh, you want to know our secret?
We have discovered one of the best ways to offer "constructive criticism" without the other getting offended.
1 - Timing - Timing is key. You don't want to bring up something that has been bugging or irritating you when you ARE irritated, frustrated or upset. Wait until you are neutral and have cooled down.
2 - Make eye contact and remove distraction - For Josh, that means I look him in the eyes and say his name, not "Babe" "Pooks", "Shtookey" or any of the other name I tend to call him on a daily basis. This helps him know that what I want to tell him is worth listening to.
3 - Prepare the other person - Josh and I begin these kinds of conversations with something like, "I say this in love" or "Can I tell you something out of love"? It gives them a chance to prepare themselves. I mean really, who likes to be told that they did or said something that hurt you or have a habit that really isn't your favorite:)
4 - Tone of voice - Use a tone of voice that is not accusing. Simply bring a gentle awareness of what is bothering you or what could probably be done differently in the future.
5 - Make light of it - Nobody is perfect and allowing your defensive wall to come down and find something to laugh about will help everyone be motivated to make the change. Chances are they don't even know there is something eating away at you:)
Again, we aren't perfect, but this little strategy sure helps us get through some issues and I thought it would be worth sharing.