Lately I’ve been struggling with the concept of talking with respect to my spouse even if we’re arguing. I’ve also been thinking about why I find it important to win an argument. And if I win, did I really win. They say there are no coincidences when God’s working in your life so, last week when this topic came up I took notice.
I was talking with a group of young married moms; they ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. The topic was Love Languages but somehow we ended up discussing how we argue with our spouses. One mom confided that when arguing with her husband she employs a “gothcha” verbal maneuver that includes using his weaknesses against him while employing her finely tuned verbal skills. These maneuvers allow her to win but I ask, “at what cost?” and “what has she actually won?” Is her victor’s cup etched with the words, “A win at the cost of a damaged relationship.” “A moment of self-gratification at the cost of a wounded spouse.”
Has she won a stronger marriage or better communication? Has she esteemed herself or her spouse in each other’s eyes? Has she gained a greater understanding of his needs or her own? Last question, has this win reflected God’s love? After all, that’s what we are commissioned to do. Ouch, these questions hurt, don’t they?
In our society winning is a big deal after all everyone loves a winner. We want our favorite team to win. We want our favorite actor or musician to win. We want our children to win. We like winning and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we’re fighting to win for the right reasons. Here’s the issue with winning a marital argument by fighting dirty; we’re acting like our spouse is the enemy; they are not. They are our partners bound to us in mind, body, and spirit. Our goal should always be to encourage them. “But what if they’re just wrong or acting like an idiot or being derogatory” you ask. Good question, and the answer is a hard one; we’re accountable before God for our own behavior; only our own. This means we need to talk to our spouses with respect, not with similar bad behavior. And usually, if one partner ups the standard of communication and starts to listen to the other’s needs instead of justifying their own, with time the other will respond in a like manor.
What would happen if the next time an argument arises you took a few seconds to remind yourself that he/she is not the enemy. Their point of view is not an obstacle for you to conquer, it’s one for you to respect and work with. Compromise with. To accept because this opinion is coming from your life-partner and you want the best for them, right?
Keeping a marriage together is hard work and sacrifice and compromise and putting the other’s needs above your own. And honestly, at times painful. Sometimes these truths are forgotten when planning a big, beautiful wedding. The focus can become the wedding and reception and it becomes easy to forget that it’s not all about us! When we say “I do” instantly it becomes all about “we or thee.” Oh my, these are difficult and old fashioned ideas. After all aren’t my needs important and who will take care of them if I don’t? Our society teaches us to be independent and that’s not a bad thing as long as we don’t take it to an extreme. Be independent, stand strong against false teachings, speak your mind, stay true to who you are, but do these things while speaking with respect to your spouse. Listen to their needs, they are part of you, you chose them. Remember, they are not your enemy even when they are irritating you to the breaking point.
Now, for my personal truth. I’m as guilty as the next person of not practicing the above wisdom. I grew up watching wives appear to never question their husbands and it infuriated me. The good wife looked weak to me. I determined I would never be like that and in my determination to be strong, I went too far. It’s taken me years to reprogram the ideas I established as a teenager. Talking with respect to your spouse, even when being spoken to harshly, is not weak; it is very, very strong. The thing is, if you learn to do this with your spouse it will carry over to other parts of your life. You will be a better person and reflect God’s loves in an honest way.
Note: if you are in an abusive relationship please seek counseling, you will never change another human being. It’s hard enough trying to change ourselves.
Debora Shelford Hobbs