Have you realized yet that sometimes you can appear to “win” an argument, but in the long run, you still lose? You may feel better after winning. But when your spouse feels like a loser, it’s your relationship that will ultimately lose.
We’re told in the Bible:
“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)
“Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20)
There’s something we’ve learned in our own marriage about communicating with each other that we’d like to point out in this Marriage Message. This is because we see so many others struggling with the same issue. And that is, to be careful when we’re arguing with your spouse. We have to be careful that we don’t run over him or her with our words just because we can.
You Can Win But Still Lose
We may be louder, and more forceful with our arguments. But truly, what does that prove? The Bible says, “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife. But every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3) “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
When it comes to arguing, we may be able to convey our thoughts quicker. We may be able to communicate our points more eloquently than our partner is able (or feels safe) to. But that doesn’t mean our point of view is more “right” than theirs. It just means that we more gifted (or we think we are) when it comes to arguing over an issue. Or maybe the reverse is true. Perhaps our spouse is the one who is better able to articulate his or her views in a clearer manner.
Whoever is the “gifted” one —as with any type of giftedness, there comes responsibility. The spouse, who can out-argue the other, needs to be careful not to verbally run over them. This is because it can lead them to feel stupid, and less heard. The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much is required.” That principle applies here, so one “partner” doesn’t take advantage of the other.
We can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that because we’re able to make our point SOUND more reasonable to us, it’s more legitimate. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) It also says, “The way of a fool seems right to him but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
Beware of Hurting Our Spouse
Sometimes we can win the argument but lose in our marriage because ultimately, we’ve hurt our spouse. Just because they don’t know how to communicate as well as we can, it doesn’t invalidate their viewpoint. What they feel and perceive is as important as what the argument is all about in the first place. Actually it’s more important. You didn’t vow to love winning an argument. You married to love your spouse. His or her feelings should be your main concern.
Eventually our spouse may get to the point where he or she won’t even TRY to communicate with us. They don’t think we’d listen or care about what they say because they feel devalued. And then we’d wonder, “Why won’t he/she talk me?” The answer is, it started earlier in our relationship. At some point we shut them down by not listening to “their side” of things. Or it could be that we chided him or her in some way. We thought our point of view sounded better to us than theirs did. It could also be an attitude they carried into the marriage from things that happened to them in their past.
Giving Grace and Space
This is where what Steve and I call, “giving each other grace and space” is important. Be merciful and give grace (good will) to your spouse whenever it’s possible. If you’re more skilled at arguing than your spouse is, back off a bit. In the Bible we’re told, “When words are many, sin is not absent. But he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) Make sure you not only say what you feel is absolutely necessary to communicate to them, but also listen to what THEY have to say. It’s important to LEARN to listen (which is a lifetime achievement).
To learn the power of listening, rid yourself of the:
“’How – can – I – get – you – to – shut – up – and – listen – to – me?’ mind-set and replace it with a ‘What – can – I – do – to – create – a – safe – place – where – understanding – can – take – root – and – grow?’ attitude.” (From the book, Can You Hear Me Now? by Dallas and Nancy Demmit)
Build Communications Bridges
The ultimate goal in any marital conflict is to build relationship bridges. It is not to build relationship walls between us. It’s important that we both feel heard and understood, loved and valued. Ultimately, we are to come together to figure out a solution for whatever is dividing us.
You may need to learn how to listen to the INTENTION of their heart —to what they may WANT to communicate to you. It may be that, for some reason, they just can’t communicate well. And both of you may need to build up your speaking/listening skills so you can help each other in this. If your spouse won’t cooperate in this mission to help your marriage, then work to make this happen as best as you can. We have articles and communication tools in various topics of this web site that help you. You can find a number of them in the following topics:
Below are a few scriptures relating to this issue. We hope you will prayerfully read them, asking God to speak to your heart. Ask Him how you can apply them to your life with your marital partner.
• Preserve sound judgment and discernment; do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, and ornament to grace your neck. (Proverbs 3:21-22)
• If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, to free yourself… go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:2-5)
• The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment. (Proverbs 10:21)
• He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. (Proverbs 15:31)
• How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! (Proverbs 16:16)
• A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. (Proverbs 16:23)
• He who answers before listening —that is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
• The tongue has the power of life and death; and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21) This could also be death of communication in a marriage if you aren’t careful.
• A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
• He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. (Proverbs 21:23)
• A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
Ask God to show you how to be a dispenser of grace rather than a vessel of criticism with your partner in marriage.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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