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What I’ve learned about arguing in marriage

young couple having argument

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Cecilia Pigg - published on 03/07/23

A recent fight taught us 3 lessons that have already helped us strengthen our marriage when we disagree.

I knew something was happening when I started getting tunnel vision, with my thoughts racing past each other. I could barely catch one and hold on long enough to speak it. I started feeling panicky, too, and wanted to leave and hide. I felt angry. I felt misjudged. It takes a lot for me to acknowledge my own negative emotions and the full force of everything had built up into quite the storm. It was culminating in this knock-down-drag-out verbal battle with my husband in our large upstairs bathroom.

I tried to end it quickly and leave, hating everything I was feeling. He pointed out that my retreat tactic was immature and would just prolong the fight instead of solving anything. I reluctantly acknowledged his point. I stayed, not knowing how this could possibly end well.

We never fought like this, and it was uncomfortable and harrowing to imagine what kind of resolution there could be. Suddenly, my husband broke off what he was energetically pointing out and paused. The Holy Spirit must have gotten a word in edgewise and my husband graciously listened, because his next words changed everything. He looked at me and in a transformed tone gently said, “I know what your position is. You don’t have to spell out where you stand again. But, I want to understand, why do you think that? Where is this coming from?”

As I started to explain why I disagreed with him, I started realizing why I felt so strongly about this. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it before, but as I started talking everything connected and came pouring out. I was able to share my experiences growing up, and how those shaped my current thoughts and strong feelings. I broke down weeping, but it was a peaceful and healing cry rather than the frustrated and hurt tears of just a few minutes previously. I felt heard, understood, and cared for. I then asked him the same question, and he was able to share what had shaped his views. Because I felt listened to, I was very open to listen and understand where he was coming from. Neither of us changed how we felt about the situation under discussion, but suddenly we were on the same team again. We cared about each other, and knew it and felt it, even though no one had switched sides and changed his mind. 

This experience taught us so much about how to argue going forward, but I’d like to draw out the top three points we learned.

1. Timing is everything

First, we were fighting at night, when both of us were exhausted. Timing is everything, and our poor choice of timing made the discussion escalate into a yelling match rather than a more charitable and reasoned discussion.

2. Don’t procrastinate

Two, we had been procrastinating this argument, or having little mini fights about it then giving up and postponing the conversation repeatedly for a few weeks. This had added to the tension, and not actually solved anything—which ramped up the stakes when we actually decided to hash it out. We learned not to procrastinate important discussions.

3. Help each other feel understood

Finally, we realized that no matter how big or small an issue we disagree on, the key to resolving the discussion well is in helping each other feel understood. We reached a conclusion and resolution much faster and with less effort when we let the other person articulate what was motivating them. 

We’ve also found that knowing these things does not always ensure that we will act on them. Too often, we still choose inopportune times to discuss things or wait too long to confront an issue. And we definitely still head into discussions with an “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and I just want you to recognize that fact, dang it!” mentality.

At the same time though, we are quicker to realize we’re making a mistake in our approach. We’ll head down the road of crazy town fight, and then one of us will say, “Let’s talk about this in the morning” or “I need to eat something before we discuss this” or “We’re just repeating the same things on a loop, let’s figure out what’s really going on.” Baby step by baby step we’re figuring out our differences in a more efficient and loving way. Thanks, Holy Spirit!

MarriagePersonal GrowthRelationships
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