My wife and I lead a Sunday School class at our church for young married couples. We are just starting a few months of discussions on marriage related topics. I asked the class to submit questions that they want to discuss in the class. I’m thinking about posting our notes for the class each month as they are relative to our discussions here.
This weeks topic: How do I win an argument with my spouse?
Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you just find someplace else to be.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 25:24.
Make sure that you are actually working towards peace.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
But for those times when you absolutely have to argue….
1. Don’t waste time arguing over facts.
Arguing over facts is pretty pointless, but we can spend a lot of time engaging in it. Something either is, or it isn’t, and most of the time the truth can be discovered fairly quickly. When you find yourself getting into an argument over facts, just back off. Do your research and either support your claim or concede and move on.
My Grandfather was a classic example of this. He would gladly argue for an hour over whether the waitress at lunch today was named Sharon. When you finally pull out the receipt that says her name was Karen, he would just shrug and say, “Well she told me her name was Sharon.”
2. Don’t argue opinions and beliefs as if they were facts.
Most of the time, we aren’t actually arguing over facts. Most of our married arguments are over opinions and beliefs. The problem is that we argue them as if they were facts.
This is a problem because, in an argument over facts, someone is right and someone is wrong. The facts are mutually exclusive; you can’t both be right about where you had dinner on your first date.
But arguing opinions and beliefs is not an either/or discussion. If my wife thinks the kids should be in bed by 8:00 and I think 8:30 is fine, these are not mutually exclusive facts. The discussion can’t be focused on which is right and which is wrong. The focus should be on which is more valid.
3. Make sure your opinions or beliefs are valid.
If my wife told me she feels the kids should wear helmets when riding a bike, I would be tempted to disagree with her. Nobody wore helmets when I was kid and I don’t know a single person who was seriously hurt as a child riding their bike.
But if she tells me that she has six friends with kids who are currently in comas after falling off their bikes, I would have to concede that to be a valid argument.
But what if she came to me and said they should wear helmets while having a pillow fight? I would let her know that there is not a single documented case of head trauma from a pillow fight. It would be reasonable for her to concede that her opinion is not valid on this point.
4. Understand where your spouses opinion or belief is coming from.
This really is ultimately the point of having an argument in the first place. We are arguing because we want different things but most of the time, we don’t really know why we are in disagreement.
Discussing opinions and beliefs should be about finding out what is driving the other person’s argument. Give your spouse time to express what is motivating them. Sometimes they just need to be heard. You might win the argument just on the basis that you took the time to listen.
Maybe my wife needs the kids in bed by 8:00 because she is working on a project and needs 2 hrs of quiet to get it done. Valid point.
Perhaps she was told by a teacher that one of them is falling asleep in class. Another valid point.
Or maybe she’s just tired of hearing them and doesn’t want to put up with another 30 minutes. Not so valid. We probably have a discussion about this one.
5. Pick your battles.
If a particular topic is a 2 out of 10 in importance to you, but a 9 out of 10 to your spouse, perhaps you are better of letting them have it. You won’t be nearly as invested in the outcome and you probably haven’t spent as much time studying up on the topic. You are likely to get your facts wrong and your arguments against it are likely to be invalid.
Sometimes a topic is a 9 out of 10 for both of you, but you’re on opposite ends of the discussion. You have that argument at least once a week and nothing ever changes. The best thing to do is reach an agreement that you are only going to discuss it at set times. Once a month, once every three months, etc. The goal is to keep these major disagreements from hovering over every other aspect of your life.
6. Understand the true goal of the argument.
Ultimately, your goal in arguing should not be winning. Your goal should be that both of you come to an agreement on the truth. If I truly have the more valid argument, my goal is to bring my wife on board. I want and need her support, not her concession.
If it turns out that I’m wrong, I need to join her side of the argument. If I just “let her have her way” then we are still at odds and my wife is left trying to make it work on her own. If she is right, she deserves my support and encouragement.
A good argument is one that ends in makeup sex.