Arguing in Front of Others – MM #346

arguing in front of others Dollar photo Man counselor caught in between fighting yelling coupleHave you ever been with a married couple who argue with each other as if you aren’t even with them? As the arguing progresses, how do you feel? Awkward? Embarrassed? Closed in? Put upon? Uncomfortable? Yep! We do too. And we’ve talked to other people who feel the same way.

Many times when a couple begins arguing, it’s as if they put on blinders to those around them. They just argue anyway. If children, or other family members, friends, or even if strangers are with them, they will still argue with each other as if no one else is around. It’s as if no one else matters, but what concerns THEM!

Awkwardness and Embarrassment

We were talking with a couple whose adult “child” and spouse puts them in the middle of this situation. This young couple thinks nothing of breaking out into full-blown arguments with their parents in the room. The parents have expressed their feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment. They’ve asked them to take their disagreements into a private place. And yet the arguments still go on in their presence. The couple is convinced that this is “healthy” to air out their differences like this. For this reason, they keep exposing these parents and others to their arguing with each other.

But it isn’t healthy or mature to do this. And it isn’t considerate to the others in the room when spouses can’t settle their differences away from others.

We’ve also been with my dad and stepmom who put us in this place. A few times we’ve been in the car with them on long trips when the arguments would break out. I’ve felt like we were trapped in a cage (and essentially we were). We’ve been VERY uncomfortable the whole time. I even started joking with them the last time saying, “Don’t let me come up there and break you two apart…” And yet they didn’t skip a beat and kept fighting as if we weren’t even there.

It’s bad enough that they’ve done this in our home or theirs. But it’s even worse to be trapped in a car when we can’t simply walk away. We finally made the rule that we wouldn’t be in a car with them. We would rather drive ourselves in peace, than be exposed to that type of toxicity.

It’s Time to Go

One couple I read about, became so desperate to get away from friends when they argue in front of them that they “developed a secret sign.” The author wrote, “one of us removes his or her watch and re-buckles it —so we know when it’s time to go.”

I can’t help but think of the Bible verse in Philippians 2 that says, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. How are you looking for the “interests of others” when they are stuck in the awkwardness of being in the middle of your arguments with each other? Be kind —take your arguments elsewhere.

S.T.O.P.

I can’t say it any plainer than this—please don’t subject others to your arguments. Please look beyond your angry situation and S.T.O.P (See The Other People) who are around you when you and your spouse are arguing. Go elsewhere to settle your disagreements with each other.

The Bible says there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. And this includes a time to openly conflict with each other as husband and wife. It also includes a time when it’s best to NOT openly disagree with each other.

One of those times when it is best to get away from others is during an argument. Let me repeat this: S.T.O.P.See The Other People —be considerate —and go somewhere else so they don’t have to be subjected to your arguing and fighting.

Also, S.T.O.P.See The Other People —be considerate of EACH OTHER. As author James Bardot says,

“Keep it private. Nobody wants their dirty laundry aired in front of others, and violating this rule becomes especially painful when our private affairs (and faults) are exposed by someone we love.”

Invasion of Privacy

So, not only do OTHER people NOT want to be part of your arguments with each other, you shouldn’t expose your spouse to this invasion of privacy. It shows that you aren’t valuing your spouse as a marriage partner. Even if he or she is the one who initiates the argument in front of others, do what you can to get out of it.

Author Cherie Barboch, from the article, “Fighting Fair” gives the following advice:

“Consider the time and place. While it can be difficult to hold your fury when you first realize you’ve been wronged, wait until you and your partner are alone and in a place and in a quiet space. If your partner is busy at work, out with friends, or in the midst of a family visit, wait until he or she can speak with you one on one [alone].”

Causing Damage

Gerald Foley, from the article “Courage to Love When Marriage Hurts” wrote:

“Do not involve other people. The argument is between the two of you. Young couples make the mistake of involving friends or parents (usually mothers). The damage comes later in several forms:

  1. A parent will more likely remember the issue long after a couple has forgotten.
  2. The respect and perception once held by a parent for a child’s spouse will decline.
  3. A couple may feel uncomfortable facing the parent even after an incident has been resolved.
  4. A parent’s natural reaction is to protect a child and this reaction may cause further damage to the relationship.”

In an article titled “How to Fight Fairly,” the following information is given:

“Bringing others into a fight is not a fair way to fight. It is important that the fight take place between those directly involved and that neither party elicits the help of friends or family members to validate their position. It doesn’t matter how many other people agree with you, that doesn’t necessarily make you right, so don’t involve others in your fight.

“This is not only fair to your partner but it is also not fair to those who are dragged into the argument. While you may have many people who agree with you and believe you are right, bringing them into the fight just isn’t fair and also isn’t effective.”

Exception

The exception to this rule is when you are seeing a counselor or mentor(s) who are trying to help you with your issues. But this is an arranged time together, so it’s different. Some times a third party who is wise and mature, and/or professional, can be more objective and offer you counsel or advice on how to work through your disagreements in a healthier way.

The best advice is given in the Bible. It states in Ephesians 4:29, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that IT MAY BENEFIT THOSE WHO LISTEN.

Proverbs 18:2 says, A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. And Titus 3:2 says, Remind the people to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. Those are good guidelines for us all!

Again, we remind you to please look beyond your angry situation and S.T.O.PSee The Other People who are around you when you and your spouse are arguing, and go elsewhere to settle your disagreements with each other. It will benefit ALL concerned.

Cindy and Steve Wright

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Filed under: Marriage Messages

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Comments

5 responses to “Arguing in Front of Others – MM #346

  1. (USA)  I believe your comments and suggestions are very sound. Couples that argue their personal disputes in the presence of family and/or friends – are self-destructive. Such behavior is destructive to relationships. In more dysfunctional relationships, such behavior is, intentionally or unintentionally, intended to pull the observers into the chaotic relationship. Do not fall into that trap.

    Further, those couples that opening argue (often over petty issues, due the stress of parenting) in front of their children – is especially hurtful and thus destructive to all those involved. Parents need to parent and this must first start by learning to control their own emotions. Your appreciation of God is very wise guidance.

  2. (UNITED KINGDOM)  Having been through this “experience” recently, I feel that the advice and suggestions that you give are viable. S.T.O.P, in my opinion, is an excellent guideline to stepping back and really taking in the whole situation through the viewpoint of others than happen to get caught in the mix.

    I’d also add that couples who go through this also need to be receptive when their children or guests try to steer them away from conflict. I think the two comments that I’ve seen come out of these situations are “It’s none of your business” or, like you mentioned, “This is how our relationship has been and it’s worked out over x number of years”. In this circumstance, you’ve not only put others in an uncomfortable position but you’ve totally alienated them as well.

    Thank you for putting the advice out there for married couples and supporting it with the Scriptures!

  3. Anne sent us an email and wrote: “Thanks for this message; it really hit home. My husband and I are one of those people who can argue before people I never knew how others felt until now. God richly bless you.”

  4. My parents do this to me all the time. I’m 32 and they’ll call me just to try and get me on their sides. I told them I’m not talking sides and they need to figure out their problems on their own. Needless to say, it has yet to work.

  5. This article was so insightful. My husband and I struggle with this issue. He has anxiety and starts getting upset when things don’t go to plan and it inevitably sets me off when he starts pointing the finger and harassing me. I have asked him to get therapy and am praying he can get his anxiety in check. For my part I am praying for peace, resilience, and taking on some of the tips above to not make it other people’s problem to the best of my ability. I am definitely sick of it. I don’t think it’s normal and I don’t ever want to think it is.