"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wifely Battles- In Defense of Arguing

"Fear not those who argue but those who dodge"
~Dale Carnegie

"Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict - alternatives to passive or aggressive responses"
~Dorothy Thompson

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"
~Proverbs 27:17

This is the third post in the "Being a Wife" series that I am working on. The first post is Wifely Duties, and the second post is Wifely Contentment. Please be sure to read my disclaimer in the second post- it basically tells you how imperfect I am. (As though anyone needs a disclaimer for that!)

I got married at a young age. Before I was married, I was very careful to do my pre-marital counselling, pray for all the right things, fill out all the workbook pages on how we would decide the important things....etc....

....I was young. I thought that if I did all the right things, and didn't do any of the wrong things, I would have an idyllic marriage. I thought I could avoid conflict with good intentions.

Guess what?

.....I was wrong.

When Wade and I first had conflict, in the early years of our marriage, I was very, very (VERY) passive aggressive. I would give him the silent treatment, expect him to REALIZE what he did wrong, then explode in anger when he didn't magically acquire the knowledge I was withholding. Needless to say, that wasn't a great method for resolving conflict. I realized that right away, but felt I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn't break. I would be resolute in my desire to be different, but as soon as any important conflict took place, I would resort back to my usual response.

This was frustrating for Wade as well, he would initially try and give me what I wanted, but that was difficult, because he was forced into guessing what I wanted since I wouldn't tell him. The problem was, I had this idea that if he loved me enough, and thought about me enough, he would do or say the right thing to make me happy, to make me not angry.

That was a fairly tumultuous time. One I wouldn't really be thrilled to relive.

There was a turning point in my life when I started to change. (Thank you Lord) Unfortunately, how I decided to THEN resolve conflict was to avoid it by trying to NEVER be angry about things at all. (Yeah, by the way, that doesn't work. All you end up doing is stuffing your anger.)  Even when I was rightly angry about something. I felt that I should just pray about my attitude, and that God would convict Wade when he was wrong, but that I wouldn't argue or fight about things, because I wanted to avoid that. (Just a side note, I think it is a good thing to be praying that God would convict your husband when he is making a bad choice, and praying that YOU would have the right attitude. I just don't think that's a substitute for communicating your feelings to your husband.) The problem with that method (obviously) was that Wade was happily doing things that made me feel totally resentful and taken for granted, and I wasn't ever telling him about those things! Every once in a while I would bring something up that had been bothering me and he was either totally clueless, or he sort of knew it bothered me, but figured if it wasn't a big enough deal for me to talk to him about it, he was going to go ahead and do what he wanted.

Fast forward to the present.

Do you know couples who never argue? Who glide along through life in a seemingly eternal state of bliss and agreement? I do. It's hard not to compare yourself to people like that, isn't it?

I am not convinced that anyone who isn't catatonic actually lives life that way though. No two people agree about EVERYTHING all the time. (If you happen to be the exception to this rule, please accept my apology.)

Now, when Wade and I disagree on something, we argue about it. (Well, according to Wade, we DON'T argue. (even though we do) He says we DISCUSS.)

I am not afraid of arguing anymore. In a way, I sort of embrace it. Let me explain why.

There are some things worth arguing over:
I am not going to argue over what we have for dinner, or what radio station we listen to. But sometimes, when we have a conflict over how to handle a situation with our kids, or how to spend money, or how we should handle a family conflict, the issue is important enough that it is WORTH an argument. My opinion matters. BUT- the only way it is going to matter is if I value my instincts and opinions enough to be passionate and share them with Wade. In our house, he has the final say, but I want to influence him when I feel differently than he feels. There have been times when I've been dead wrong. There have been times when I've been right on the money. Arguing my side allows me to be a partner and not an employee or child. And it allows Wade to see another side to things, which he may not have considered.

Arguing diminishes the power of the "silent treatment" weapon:
I learned, fairly early on in marriage, that when your spouse is treating you unfairly, or making decisions and not considering you, that you have very few healthy tactics with which to respond. I also learned (Actually I didn't learn this, it was already built in, I think...) that there are quite a few unhealthy, manipulative methods you can employ. My weapon of choice was the silent treatment. I got quite skilled at that. The problem is, have you noticed that when you are trying to make your husband "come around" in a conflict, and you use the silent treatment, or whatever your favorite weapon of choice may be, it doesn't actually give you any real power? Because even if you end up getting your way, it's not satisfying- because you know your husband just gave in. It's not a real, lasting solution. Even if you temporarily get what you want, ultimately, the problem that exists is still there. Lurking.

 Another downside to the silent treatment is this: it's hard to withhold your affection from just one person. So generally you have a diminished sense of joy and love toward EVERYONE in your life, not just the person you're intending to ignore. Yuck. If you argue about the problem, even if you don't get your way, there is conversation. You can be heard. You can use the healthy power you DO HAVE- the influence you have over your husband as his partner and someone he respects and loves. And you can hear his reasons, his opinions, his rational for making choices, and maybe understand where he is coming from.

If you argue enough, you get good at it:
Ok, that sounds like a bad thing, but I promise you it isn't! When Wade and I first started to actually argue about important issues, we weren't very skilled at it. So it usually disintegrated into insults. But as the years have gone by, we have learned how to hear what the other person is saying. We have also learned (Most of the time) to keep at it if we don't come to a solution the first go around. I have learned not to take things as personally, since that is a flaw of mine. Wade has learned to be a bit more open to hear me out completely, even when I am saying something he doesn't like. Do we argue perfectly? NOT AT ALL!!! But we both have the same goal in mind- finding a situation or decision that we can both live with- together. And we can find that when we try. Sometimes it is hard-earned, we really have to contend with each other. But thankfully, we've learned how to argue well.

Once you're done arguing, it's DONE:
I think this is my favorite benefit to arguing things through. When you finally DO reach a compromise, you're done! The issue isn't waiting to rear its ugly head again in two days. Or two weeks. Or twenty years. You don't have to keep track of who did what to whom and how many points you have. Arguing until you reach an agreement keeps you on the same team. I know that sounds contrary, but it isn't. I believe that keeping arguments inside instead of voicing them sometimes leads to secretly working against the other person, and having a "his team" and "my team" mentality. When you feel like you have to look out for your own needs because your husband doesn't know what your needs are.... that is divisive. If you feel like you have to hide resources, or information, or anything from your husband because you can't bring it up to him.... that's divisive. Arguing and presenting all the facts to each other keeps you two working as partners. On the same team. Together. One.

One is good.

To sum it up, I am not advocating screaming at one another. Or fighting. Or being unreasonable. What I am suggesting is that when you are in a marriage with someone you respect, they deserve to know what you think. Even when it's different from their opinion. I believe one of the ways I show that I trust Wade is when I let him know what bothers me, what I need, what my opinions are, what I see as the right choice. I can't tell you how much he's changed over the years, and stepped up to the plate, and worked hard to be worthy of that trust. Does he mess up? Of course! Do *I* mess up? Most assuredly! But we keep at it.

If you argue when you disagree, it makes your approval and agreement even more sweet- because your husband can trust that it's real. That's a good gift. He'll know you're not saying one thing and feeling another.

Lastly, I want to just say that I think most men, when they love their wives, want to lay the world at their wife's feet. They just need to know how to do that for you. Trust them enough to be real.

If you don't agree, I'll be happy to argue with you. :)


  1. I've too often seen those "perfect" couples who never argue end up divorced. As you've made it so perfectly clear, marital happiness lies not in the absence of conflict but in its resolution.

    Great post.

  2. I have often felt like the odd woman out in church type situations because Wade and I argue. I have learned over the years not to be embarrassed about being real. I think the alternative is much worse. :)

  3. well said Running Mom... my wife of 31 years and I have had some fine meltdowns over the years, the results of which have always been a clarifying, or a confessing, or a forgiving, with greater intimacy as the result.

  4. So true Richard!! I love when Wade and I work through something together , because it becomes a tested STRENGTH, and not a lurking weakness.I also love that neither of us is a pushover. :)