Thank God for Arguments

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Newlyweds often come to me in great distress and tell me they keep fighting. Does this mean they were not meant for each other? Is this marriage a huge mistake? Are they on the road for divorce? What can they do to stop arguing so often. 

I do have one simple answer to that final question. If you want to never argue again, divorce now and never talk to each other. I never argue with over 5 billion people on this planet. They are all strangers. I only argue with the people I know. 

More to the point, I only argue with people I want to know better. Other than the extremely rare temper flare up at a baseball game, I only feel like investing the emotional energy to argue with people whom I love and whom I plan to stay in relationship with for a long time. 

Arguing does not mean that you are incompatible. It means that you live in close proximity, and you are trying to grow toward one another. To step away from conflict means you are stepping away from the person. 

In a healthy marriage, two people are trying to become one. It takes years of learning your spouse and dying to your self-preoccupied ways of thinking before you come close to that goal. Along the way you bump over hundreds of issues: from housekeeping to bill paying to holiday traditions. With each disagreement, you have an opportunity to move closer to each other and the temptation to move apart. 

A conflict means an obstacle lies between you and your spouse. Healthy conflict focuses on the obstacle and seeks to make your marriage better. Unhealthy conflict focuses on the person and tries to win the argument or administer punishment. 

However, many of us grow up so afraid of divorce we instinctively avoid all conflict. Instead of learning how to understand each other better, we build little categories of topics to avoid. After several years of this behavior we have such a long list of topics to avoid that we no longer have anything to talk about. 

I want to encourage you to take another route. Instead of avoiding conflict, learn how to argue in a healthy way. Simply put, if both of you will focus on the obstacle and how to remove it, you will bless your marriage through the argument. 

So don't try to prove you were right, and don't try to dish out as much suffering as you have experienced. Don't try to hurry up and apologize so we can end the discussion. Simply sit down and talk like adults. Start with simple questions like: how can I spend money on clothes without hurting your feelings? Those questions will sometimes lead to more profound questions: what are our lifetime goals for our money, and sometimes they will lead to simple solutions: make a budget. 

Whether the conversation was simple or profound, you have built another bridge. Now you can talk about money without it being uncomfortable instead of flagging a landmine (never ask that question again). You have taken a step toward each other, and you are moving toward the goal of oneness. 

3 Comments

Thank you so much for posting! I sometimes get frustrated if we have an argument, but now I know I'd rather have the occasional disagreement than to never argue at all.

I saw this on Facebook, and I'm going to share if you don't mind. :)

If you're not in conflict, one of you is unnecessary.

Lynn and I met at ORU and got married one year to the day from our first date. This January we'll celebrate 40 years of marriage. We've always practiced a couple of rules. Though we often talked over our disagreements (sometimes yelled over them), we never went to sleep angry with each other ... though we may have spent a few sleepless nights. Also, we have never uttered the "D word." If D______ were punishable by death, there would be a lot fewer D_____s ... of course there might be a few more suicides! (JK!)

Seriously, thanks for sharing!

"Don't try to hurry up and apologize so we can end the discussion." That's my struggle. Thanks for putting this up, Ricky. Helps me wrap my head around the usefulness of conflict in my marriage.

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