Arguments and disagreements are a part of every marriage, and in every marriage they are handled differently. However, unresolved conflicts over time can create a division in the relationship that is unhealthy. Most divorces are blamed on “irreconcilable differences”. Learning how to bring disagreements in marriage to a healthy conclusion is important to growing your relationship with your spouse. Before a difference becomes “irreconcilable”, consider:
Resolve to conclude. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to resolve issues that make us angry on that very day. Good arguments in marriage are ones that reach a conclusion. Resolve before you begin going through an issue or disagreement that you will find some middle ground, or a solution you can both live with. Commit to each other to come to a resolution.
Remind each other you’re a team. Married couples often need to be reminded that they are a team, not two individuals bringing their disagreements to be adjudicated. The Bible says in Mark 10:8 that the two in marriage are “one flesh”. This is more than the physical act of sex in marriage. You are one unit, acting together, for the interest of the unified party. A successful argument is one that you both win, because you learn about each other, reach an agreement, and put the importance of growing together above winning a point. If you’re desire is to win against your spouse, you’ve already lost, to some degree.
Argue to resolve, not win. As you talk to each other, don’t let your desire to “punish your spouse” for being wronged rule the disagreement. So many arguments between spouses turn in to shouting matches, or a litany of past mistakes brought up in a timeline to be relived, or a time to push the hot buttons of the other person just to get a reaction. None of these help you solve the problem at hand. Remind yourself as you talk, “I want to end this argument with our relationship being better than it was before it began.” Successful conclusions take a certain degree of discipline and humility on the part of both spouses.
What, not why. In any argument, each side needs an opportunity to “state their case”. When you do this as a couple, concentrate on what actually occurred versus the why. Often one spouse will assume the motives or intentions of the other, and incorrectly. Instead focus on the actions or words of the other, and take them at face value. If you want to know why something occurred, ask your spouse. Even if you don’t agree with the “why”, accept their explanation as their own thoughts on the matter. Remember it is always easier and more straightforward to talk through changing ones actions than ones thoughts or motivations.
Regarding sin. If your argument is that one spouse has been sinful toward the other, then handle this biblically, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18. Read what the Bible says about a particular sin, like lying, or unfaithfulness. Talk about that with your spouse. With sin the first order of business is to help the person who sinned to understand that they have sinned, and for them to seek repentance with God, and restoration of the relationship with their spouse. Go to your spouse first, and then if it cannot be resolved, consider counseling or a visit with your pastor.
Any argument that gets physically or verbally abusive is not what is being discussed in this article—parties in that case should always separate and connect with the authorities.
Leaving it unresolved. Sometimes you can indeed “agree to disagree” on matters of preference or opinion. In fact, research shows that as much as 69% of all marital disagreements are managed versus being fully resolved. Resolution is preferred, but differences can sometimes compliment the relationship. Even in these cases, you and your spouse should try to conclude a disagreement versus letting it linger.