Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How To Win An Argument With Your Spouse

I'm only married to one woman and I'm guessing there's at least 1 billion women of marriagability on the planet.  So as for being an expert on the institution of marriage?  I'm not that guy.

But for being an expert on my own marriage? 

Eh....maybe I have a few qualifications.  We're still married after ten years, though not wholly due to some stellar ability on my part. 

dance it out....laugh it out.
But I have learned about arguing.  My wife?  Used to school me bad when we argued and first got married.  It wasn't even fair.  It was like an olympic triathlete at the Special Olympics  when she would argue with me.

Now I'm a mental health professional.  Following arguments, lines of thinking, intellectual course and staying on track is a part of my profession.  I got powers now. 

Have I used them?  To my chagrin and dismay, yes.  When you use a skill for anything other than a loving purpose in marriage such as to win an argument, you may win the battle but cost yourself the war.  

Which leads me into how to win an argument with your spouse. There actually is a way to win.  And win big.  But when you win right, you both win. Together.    This isn't by any means complete, but it is some things I have learned, I may update and re-post it if the inspiration strikes me in the future....but here we go.  How to win an argument with your spouse.

First is, don't argue with your spouse.  If needs be, tell your spouse you are upset and you don't want to be mean and you are going to go for a walk instead until you can think clearly because you value their feelings and don't want to hurt them.  This right here scores big points for you in your relationship and the argument. You're already winning and you don't even know it yet!

Also, by refusing to argue, you are less likely to have hurtful things said against you.   Another win.

If needs be, pray FOR your spouse before these discussions.  Tell heavenly father how you care for them, or pray with them and pray for them and let them hear about your prayers for them and how you care for them.  This right here has a lot of power and potential to improve your life.  Ask to say a prayer before you discuss something.  Ask that the spirit be present, that you be guided by it, that you can have the wisdom and the proper feelings to address the issue.  Ask that you might understand, and ask to be forgiven for your shortcomings.  Acknowledge them before God in prayer so your spouse can hear them, pray that your spouse can know that you care and that you can show your feelings better......all of this divine help goes a long ways.

Here's a bit of psychology for you: focus on the present.  The now.

The past?  Leave it where it belongs.  Focus on one issue at a time.  Don't bring up the past as an assault weapon against feelings or as a means to manipulate and hurt.  Focusing on the present issue is also a winning strategy that allows you to actually solve an issue rather than tackling the history of the world in a single setting.   It can be tempting to go back in time.  Resist this temptation. It is exhausting and can be impossible to follow and since I guarantee you both have different recollections of a situation - it isn't going to be productive usually.
WINNING....*is* everything, but it's what you win that matters....

Also, when you bring up the past, it shows you haven't forgiven.  We are commanded to forgive.  We can set limits on when we should but ultimately we should as quickly as possible.  A note on forgiveness?  Heavenly father isn't only concerned with your scars or your spouse's sins.  He's very concerned about your scars and your sins as well.  In a relationship, you both have an effect on each other, don't forget that.  And if one of you sinks, you both sink, and I'm inclined to think - or should I say I know? - if one of you goes down, God is going to ask the other, "...and where were you and what were you doing in this time that they were going down and being lost?"  Lot's to think about there.  I know it has sobered my mind of my responsibilities to my family.  None of us are an island and exempt from what goes on in the family and we all have an impact, sometimes we aren't aware of it.  Be humble, seek forgiveness, and forgive likewise as you would be forgiven.  If you choose to "remember", I would ask you "Why?"  I'm not saying there isn't a reason, but  be aware of the reason, and counsel with your heavenly father on that reason as you decide.  He can help you decide, remember or forget if needs be.  Also, forgive yourself, come to understand yourself as well so that you can grow and move past things as well.  Prayer and repentance really help in this area.

Another thing to win an argument - know you have flaws you can't even see.  You don't know you have them.  Be open to them.  When you recognize your flaws and begin to work on them, you begin to have power to mend and heal your relationship!    The other night my wife brought up something I did that was kind of foolish and it was a bit embarrassing to have it pointed out to me.  I cracked up a bit and started laughing and said "Well, thank you, I appreciate you pointing that out to me, I feel very foolish.  And now in an act of unselfishness because I love you so much, I don't want to spend our entire session focusing on my flaws, let's turn the time over to you so you can benefit from learning some of yours."  She laughed and named a few of her flaws.  I didn't expect her to, but it was a lighthearted way to acknowledge what she was saying without getting defensive while admitting it does help to know my flaws, but at the same time being willing to share the experience. 

Be aware of why you are doing things.  If you are doing something because it's the right thing to do....I might suggest that is Terrestrial Reasoning at best. Pray to do things because you want to do them for your spouse and pray to find the joy in them.  Remember that walk you went on earlier in the entry?  Are you going because you're mad and should, or going because you love them and want to serve them when you get back?   Think about it....

Family?  Leave them out of it.  They aren't or shouldn't be present for these discussions and aren't or shouldn't be IN your relationship (if you're from a traditional American, western culture, it might not apply otherwise, but if you're LDS I see free agency kind of at the middle of that debate regardless of culture).

Here's a bit more psychology for you - we do this when we do intakes and a history of gathering information with couples in mental health but the results are pretty fantastic with marriages - we ask: How did you two meet?  How did it all begin?  What did  you used to do for fun?

Most couples in the heat of aggravated passion forget these things, but you'll often see them soften
for the first time in forever when you ask them this.  It can be an open door to fixing things and get them to laugh and smile at one another and play a bit together in a session rather than focusing on the problem.  Sometimes we need to focus on something other than the problem to solve the problem.

Remember to have a sense of humor about yourself and about your spouse.  Life is painful enough without taking everything so seriously. Like if you spouse forgets the soy milk at the grocery store five times even though you gave them a list, capitalized it, told them about it, and they got everything on the list except that....can't you laugh at that?  (Or be concerned enough to have their memory checked?)  Or can't you poke fun at yourself for it?  Sometimes I imagine myself on Candid Camera and find myself smiling at some of my more serious difficulties.  Laughter can be the lubricant for life when sand gets stuck in your gears.  And I like to say "Misery loves comedy."  Find a way to laugh or smile when you can.

Another way to win?  Remember patience and time.  A flower doesn't blossom instantly.  Trees do not grow overnight.  Neither do relationships mature, develop, grow, nor do people change immediately.  Have some faith in your spouse that they can figure something out and change and grow over time.  You have been given time, haven't you?  Someone somewhere gave you some....pay it forward.  Or recognize that some things might be the "price of admission" to be with them and that some things may not change and you may need to prioritize your feelings.  Be patient with them!  Be gentle!  Be patient with yourself as well.  Don't beat up your spouse's spouse.  They need you! 

Lastly, the theme woven through this article is to remember that repentance begins with you.  You can't control your spouse.  And you shouldn't wait for someone else to repent and be aware of their flaws before you are willing to do the same.  Your own repentance can strengthen them which can in turn strengthen you, so why wait???  But you can live worthy of respect even if you feel like you aren't going to get it, live worthy of love even if you feel like you aren't going to be loved.  This brings the blessings of God into your life.  Relationships take time.  Sometimes, you just have to set aside an argument and focus on building a relationship.

In the end, gradually, the things you argue about will no longer be an issue as you do this and other inspired things. The arguments will stop.  Your words will be kinder to each other.  And you will have won not just that one, but the many arguments you would have had together.  You'll have won!

Remember the main argument is: "We belong together and we can do this."

there's a metaphor here....think about it...

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