Most relationships including marriages have the occasional argument or strong disagreement. A good argument requires some rules. Even in mixed martial arts there are rules to minimize the risk of lasting damage.
Maintain proportion in a disagreement. It is easy to let a level 2 disagreement, on a scale of 1 to 10, turn into a level 8 problem. In others words, if you are as mad about a dirty room as would be if someone burnt your house down, then you’re not in proportion. From personal experience proportion is extremely tough to maintain when the anger is about an event that has repeated itself a hundred times.
Out of Bounds
Men especially should never threaten their spouses security or their commitment to the marriage. For example: comparing your wife to another woman is out-of-bounds. Women especially should never engage in mockery and controlling behavior. These behaviors are especially damaging and can result in long-term problems even after the kiss-and-make-up.
Don’t argue tired, hungry, or under the influence. Many issues are simply resolved with proper sleep. In our culture many of us are chronically tired due to a lack of sleep.
Address the Point
Many arguments are caused by the intersection of two or more issues. The confusion of issues often results in the spouses talking past each other. The more issues present in an argument the more difficult it is to find resolution. Try to address one point at a time and avoid linking issues. Finally, even though I’m a confirmed hypocrite – when I’ve taken time to actually write down a disagreement the thoughts surrounding it often become more focused, coherent, and less emotional. When my wife has taken time to write down her thoughts resolution is found more quickly.
Queen Esther provides an excellent example of how to address serious issues with a spouse. When she was faced with the serious issue of Haman’s anti-sematic death sentence she dressed up (a sign of respect), had a feast prepared (a sign of respect), and took her time waiting for the proper moment (a sign of respect) despite the King’s grievous error. By the time she addressed the issue she had the King’s full attention for her respect leaving no room for her motives to be misinterpreted.
It is important to remember that you both at one time were so in love that you decided to share a life together and to raise a family together.
Arguments happen for good reasons, bad reasons, but usually goofy stupid reasons. For example: I was recently in a small restaurant in Utrecht, Netherlands and could not help to overhear a couple engaged in a very loud argument. The woman was really angry about not being able to use her bicycle more. Apparently he had promised her that her that this hotel would be near a bike path.
The following is a list of points that are common reasons for arguments.
Financial issues spark a lot of arguments. Once again, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s material. In addition, having organized finances with fresh relevant data can avoid many arguments. My awesome wife has recorded virtually every transaction since the beginning of our marriage. Thanks to her record keeping I know exactly how much money we make and spend each month in over 30 categories. In 23 years of marriage we’ve never had a legitimate mark against our credit thanks to my wife.
Moms and Dads are different and have different roles. The traditional role of the Dad is to push his children to succeed. The Dad should take the lead in discipline. The traditional role of the Mother is to provide a safe nurturing place for her children to develop in. Both roles are critically important for a developing child. Unfortunately, this difference between Mother and Father can spark arguments about how the parental duo responds to a child’s issue.
Sometimes a spouse needs to vent. Be understanding and supportive and don’t make yourself a target by pointing out the flaws in a rant about their co-worker or relative.
According to my brother-in-law sometimes a woman just wants to have a listening ear.
Arguments can be sparked by the use of extreme words. Avoid using the words “never” and “always” etc. and don’t take them literally when you hear them. The other spouse really doesn’t think that you NEVER do something, they mean rarely or not enough.
The Assuming Spouse: don’t assume your spouse understands why you’ve treated them poorly for 3 days.
Wild Extrapolation: don’t conclude your spouse who bought $50 worth of songs on the internet is trying to bankrupt the family.
Unreliable Advice: Marriage advice from a relative who has been in three divorces or parenting advice from a person who has never raised a child should be treated with respectful skepticism.
Hormones: don’t say that PMS has nothing to do with the argument when you feel like your entire life is messed up, you are crying for no apparent reason, or socks on the floor made you so mad that you made a PowerPoint presentation on it (actual event).
Bad Technique: don’t use poor analogies, instead just make your point.
You are the World: Your opinion does not represent the world’s opinion. For example: “Everyone thinks the way I do.”, “All men would agree that I’m right”, “You don’t know how to treat women” as if all women are the same.
The Lawyer: It’s an argument not a court room and you are not an attorney and you are not allowed to interrogate.
Pointless points: Don’t make meaningless points in an argument. For example: “You said you’d stop by Safeway and be home by 5:30. NO, I said I’d swing by Safeway and be home by 5:30.
Baggage: don’t assume your spouse is wrong because they were wrong in the past even though past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Christ said to forgive 70 times 7.