“It’s better to be wrong together than right alone”
– Michele Doman
Every couple argues. Arguing with your spouse is expected and can actually be a sign of a healthy marriage.
We’re bound to have disagreements on anything from where the toothbrushes should go to how to discipline the children when we’re living together, coming from different backgrounds and tackling household tasks while raising children.
So why does arguing have a bad reputation?
We believe it’s more about how couples are arguing than about the fact that they are. Every couple is unique and the way that they argue will be too. But the thing that won’t change is the need for respectful disagreement.
What is your goal in arguing with your spouse? Is it to win or be right or are you trying to come to an agreement, seeking unity?
Unity should be the answer every time but we’re imperfect humans so we know that isn’t always our goal. So how do we get there? And how do we argue with that goal in mind?
The first step in arguing with your spouse well is to simply understand that the whole point of arguing is to seek unity. It’s to get on the same page and find the place where you’re both okay with the outcome.
We can’t genuinely seek unity if we don’t make an attempt to understand where the other person is coming from. Press pause on wanting to be understood and seek instead to understand.
This is so difficult because, if you’re like us, you generally walk into an argument feeling hurt, angry or misunderstood. We quickly get defensive, wanting to set the record straight and make sure that the other person understands what we think.
Your spouse feels that exact same way.
So instead of trying desperately to be understood, stand back in humility and let your spouse share their heart with you.
When we’re standing back, hoping to understand rather than to be understood, we can listen for the root cause of the issue.
At its core, the argument is probably about feeling disrespected or unheard rather than about something done incorrectly or about unmet expectations. It’s about feeling hurt by your spouse’s action or reaction.
And when there’s hurt involved, reconciliation is needed, which is where trust comes in.
We all married our spouses for a reason. We love them, enjoy being around them and share values and experiences with them.
If we didn’t trust them, we probably wouldn’t have said “I do.”
So when it comes to an argument, we need to approach them with trust. Your spouse likely didn’t intentionally hurt you. They’re not being spiteful or hurtful on purpose. The most likely scenario is that they genuinely didn’t know what they said or did was hurtful.
The best way to go is to give our spouses the benefit of the doubt and to move with the knowledge that they genuinely want the best for us.
When we look at our partner through this lens, it’s much easier to see unity as the goal of arguing.
So once we’re truly seeking to understand, to find the root cause of the issue and looking at our spouse in trust, how do we then move forward with arguing well?
How do we argue in a way that doesn’t cause more hurt but actually achieves teh goal of unity?
We need some guidelines!
Avoid using absolutes like “You always…” It’s simply not true and sounds very accusatory.
Use “I feel…” statements when describing your experience with the scenario. When you describe how you feel rather than saying something like “You made me feel like…”, it takes the pressure off the other person and puts your feelings squarely on the person they belong to – you.
Stick to the subject at hand. Don’t bring past arguments or hurts into the argument. It’s not productive and distracts from the issue you’re trying to resolve.
Don’t walk away unless you mutually agree to do so. If you need to take a break, communicate your need and take it. If it’s getting late, decide together to revisit the problem in the morning.
Walking away in the middle of an argument (like a walk away and slam the door scenario) is extremely disrespectful. It gives you the last word but doesn’t support the goal of unity.
And finally, ask for forgiveness!
Saying something like: “I’m sorry for what I did. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” is very humbling and disarming. It’s hard to stay mad at someone when they ask you to forgive them in this way.
Even if you don’t feel sorry, ask for forgiveness! The feelings will follow.
With the goal of unity in mind, arguing with your spouse can actually be a very productive activity. While it might seem exhausting (it is!), those arguments are helping to bring us closer as a couple, smooth down our rough edges and bring us closer to sainthood.
If you’d like to hear more on this topic, check out our latest podcast episode: Why Your Should Argue With Your Spouse.
We also invite you to check out our upcoming free webinar on the Family Board Meeting, our course that aims to get you and your spouse on the same page and on track toward a shared goal. You can learn more about it here.