Q: How do you get rid of doubt and fear that maybe you shouldn’t have remarried when you and your spouse get in an argument?
A: Excellent question. Pulling context from your question, it sounds like your first marriage ended in divorce and that there was a lot of fighting in that marriage. Understandably, any fights in your new marriage take you back to that place, emotionally, where you never wanted to be again. There’s hurt, fear, and anger again; those were the emotions that you wanted to avoid in your new marriage.
It’s crucial that you recognize that going through a divorce or a death of a spouse is a traumatic event. Let me repeat that. You’ve experienced a trauma. Remarriage is an act of confronting that trauma head-on, and while it feels good to not be alone anymore, intense emotions arise when trauma is triggered. When an argument ensues, your instinct is to protect yourself, which in this case means doubting your remarriage and looking for a way out.
The fact is, conflict is normal and healthy. While the Savior charged us to avoid the spirit of contention (see 3 Nephi 11:29), that’s not the same thing as conflict. He Himself didn’t back down from conflict, but faced it with compassion, understanding, and the truth.
If an argument with your spouse triggers old emotions, you need to work through the trauma of your first marriage. A skilled therapist can help, along with the support of your family, friends, priesthood leaders, and your new spouse.
If conflict with your spouse is, itself, taking the shape of unhealthy patterns, you’ll need to learn new ways of resolving conflict with one another. Remind yourself that your new spouse is not your old spouse. Calm down, identify what you’re really feeling (“scared,” “hurt,” or “embarrassed,” not “angry”) and try to see things from your spouse’s perspective. Put your needs on the shelf to be there for your spouse, then take them off once he or she feels heard and validated. Be responsible for your own behavior. Apologize if you get out of line. Take a conflict resolution course, read up on the subject, or get the help of a good couples therapist.
Whatever you do, don’t make any major decisions when you’re upset. Calm down and see clearly. Pray for guidance and reach out to those who can help.
By Jonathan Decker, LMFT
Hope this helped. For those reading, what advice would you give? Who do you know that needs this article today? If you’d like to ask me a question, contact me here or join my Facebook group. If you’d like more direct support, schedule a consultation with me or take one of my online courses.