Disagreements. They happen all the time in human relationships. When you were a teenager, you may have wanted to stay out until midnight with your friends. Your parents thought you should be home by 10 pm. You disagreed. But then, you started calling your parents names: “Unreasonable.” “Strictest parents in the universe.” You began comparing them to other, better parents. “No one else’s parents are like that.” Your parents’ faces may have tightened, and their voices got louder and higher pitched. They assumed a firmer stance. You dug your heels in a little harder. As emotions fueled the fight, they became less willing to negotiate.
Marriage presents many opportunities to disagree. How high can the grass get before someone needs to mow it? How much money should you budget for eating out? How important is it for you to have a budget? These are matters for discussion. As you talk them over calmly, you find a plan emerging. Good ideas from both spouses are adapted and agreement on a plan results. You may have to compromise. You may have to give in this time and next time, your spouse yields to you. You can disagree with your spouse on any of these topics and have a civil discussion—not an argument.
Something else creeps in when a discussion topic moves from mere disagreement to argument. If we feel our position is not given a fair hearing, we start putting up walls. We may want our way or we may feel hurt, so we fortify our position—with blame, with name-calling, with unfavorable comparisons. Pretty soon we’re arguing like we did with our parents when we were teenagers: “If you had fixed the problem last week . . .,” “If you weren’t so cheap . . .,” “You are just like your dad!” The discussion is no longer civil. The fight is on.
Once the discussion has taken an unpleasant turn, how do you get it back on track? Obviously, sincerely apologizing for your unkind words would be a good start. But go deeper than that.
- Pray and ask God what is best for His Kingdom. Your goal should not be, “what I want.” It should be, “What’s best for our family?” “How do we get this ‘dance’ back in sync?” “How do we glorify God in this decision?”
- If you are the one being called the name, don’t take the bait. “Don’t return evil for evil or insult for insult but give a blessing instead.” (1 Peter 3:9) Practice responding to the attack by reminding your spouse there is a problem to solve.
- Once you have focused back on the problem (not the person), what are possible solutions that are acceptable to both you and your spouse? You may have to agree on something that is not first choice for either of you but find a solution you think is the best choice.
A little humility goes a long way. De-escalate the argument or avoid it altogether by seeking and discussing what would be best for God’s Kingdom.
If you found this article helpful, please share it and The Marriage Dance ministry with a friend.