When A Discussion Goes Badly – MM #250

Discussion - Graphicstock - a-young-couple-arguing-at-the-breakfast-table_SYbNJrCrs copyHave you ever been involved in a discussion with your spouse and it goes badly? It goes in a direction that you never intended?

“Why is it that differences of opinion between a husband and wife so often lead to arguments and a breakdown in communication? Usually the differences are not life and death matters. They aren’t even right and wrong matters. They’re just different ways of seeing things or handling a situation. At such times the couple’s communication skills are tested.” (Dr Ed Wheat)

When a Discussion Breaks Down

Do you have discussion “breakdowns” in your marriage where you and your spouse have a difficult time seeing things the same way? If so, please prayerfully read the following insights, which come from Dr Ed Wheat’s book, First Years of Forever (published by Zondervan). And then apply the info you can use. (Reading the book will help you beyond that.)

One of the things Dr. Wheat says is:

“When a disagreement occurs, it’s important to defuse its explosive potential by reducing what’s at stake. When your attitude changes from win/loss, I’m right/you’re wrong position to a ‘Let’s talk this over, but it doesn’t affect our love and respect for one another’ perspective, you’ve won the real battle.”

So, what do you do when a disagreement goes in an explosive direction? You definitely want to defuse it as soon as possible. Dr. Wheat goes on to reveal some of the ways to do just that:


When a disagreement occurs, it’s important to defuse its explosive potential by reducing what’s at stake. When your attitude changes from win/loss, I’m right/you’re wrong position to a “Let’s talk this over, but it doesn’t affect our love and respect for one another” perspective, you’ve won the real battle. Here are some principles to follow:


• Response, Not Reaction:

Don’t interrupt. Listen carefully before you respond. Don’t react. Respond. Keep the discussion squarely on the issue at hand. You need to agree, long before disagreements arise, that you will limit any discussion to the present, leaving the past out of it, and limit the discussion to the one issue, refusing to allow side issues to enter in.

• Disagreement, Not Disapproval:

Acknowledge that you understand what your partner is saying, even though you disagree. Show him or her respect. Don’t let your disagreement of this issue sound like disapproval of your partner.

• The Gift of Empathy:

Make it a point to share your feelings, but not in such a way that your partner feels criticized. Encourage your partner to share feelings and respond to them lovingly. Give him or her, the gift of sympathy and empathy. This is one way to teach each other to give what you both are longing for.

• Carefully Clarify:

Carefully clarify what you’re both saying so there can be no misunderstanding. Take turns doing this, with no interruptions.

• Truthing in Love:

Speak the truth in love. The original expression in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:15) is literally truthing in love — maintaining truth in love, both with your speech and with your behavior. Honesty and love are needed, so speak the truth but speak it gently.

• Say “I Need You”:

Be willing to show your vulnerable, needy side to your partner [if you aren’t in an abusive marriage]. Don’t be afraid to say “I need you.” Real communication means revealing yourself even at the risk of rejection. When both are willing to do this, you are well on your way to building loving intimacy in your relationship.

• Surprise and Disarm:

Stop being defensive when the issue is a personal one. Surprise and disarm your partner by agreeing there is wrong on your side, since there always is (even if you don’t wish to admit it). Be specific. “I was wrong” can stop a fight and demonstrate to your partner how to admit wrong, too.

• Apply the B-E-S-T:

Apply the B-E-S-T principles in your communication. As you talk with each other, Bless with your words; Edify (or build up) your partner by what you say and by your interest in what your partner has to say; Share openly and honestly; and Touch affectionately while you talk. Bless, edify, share, and touch —communicate the BEST to your mate.

You can reduce tensions by recognizing and correcting the communication practices that cause frustration and by learning to fight the biblical way —a way that deals constructively with anger, resentment, and hurt feelings.

We hope and pray the above thoughts will help and bless your marriage.

And if you are new in your marriage (within the first 5 years or even beyond) you might consider obtaining this excellent book that Dr Ed Wheat wrote for newlyweds. It could help you to build a good strong base for the future of your marriage.

Cindy and Steve Wright

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Filed under: Marriage Messages

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3 responses to “When A Discussion Goes Badly – MM #250

  1. (USA)  I am not a morning person, so whatever my husband does or says in the morning becomes very sensitive too me. He doesn’t realize that saying that my pubic hair is not attractive, my urine stinks, or "I don’t want to force you to dust the house, but I told you yesterday…" really turns me off.

    He is a morning person even though he says he is not. But he is ready to "go,go,go" in the morning while I need to slowly get myself together. He listens, but it doesn’t matter to him. We are only married for six months and I already can’t stand my marriage. He changed after we are married. He used to be more sensitive when we were poor.

    I feel that he is more confident now at work and takes me for granted at home because he is able to support us. He is a good material provider now. If I told him that I want him to honor my wish like staying away from vulnerable girls who are looking up to him, he fights with me and told me that I am too insecure.

    I’ve said some bad things to him when he gets on my nerves that he told me that he always remembers them, and they can really haunt him too. When one wants to communicate, the other wants to fight. A lot of egos. Help!!

  2. (USA) Hi Joy, It sounds like you are going through one of the many adjustment stages you’ll be going through during the course of your marriage. It doesn’t make them less painful to know that you’re going through a “stage” but hopefully it can at least help you to weather them better.

    My sympathies are with you. I remember the first tough stage that my husband and i went through and it was very difficult (most of them are). I wondered, “Who IS this man that I married?” Because he sure didn’t act like that before we married, or if he did, I didn’t pay much attention.

    It’s amazing how much grace we give each other before we marry and how much things can bother us afterward. I have to agree that what you say your husband said was anything but charming or tactful, and it showed an insensitive side. But I pray that you two will eventually work this kind of thing out.

    We just featured this subject in a recent Marriage Message, which is #15 “Weathering Stages of Marriage.” You may want to read it and also go into the “Marriage Stages” section to read more. Plus, the “Newlywed” section could help you also. As you read, pray that you would be sensitive to anything that YOU might be doing that are insensitive as well. In every marriage there are two-way streets where the husband has a list of complaints (albeit, different ones from his perspective) and the wife has a list.

    The point is to work through the stages with as little damage as possible. The “Gender Differences” section is a good one to read as well because you’ll find yourself totally flummoxed at times because of the built-in differences as well as the ones that are common to man (and woman). But recognizing them helps to ease the pain a bit and makes it a bit easier to come up with compromises.

    It also sounds like you both have a lot of adjusting to do to living with your different personalities and differences. Plus it also sounds like you both need to put some boundaries in place as far as the opposite sex. We have a lot of articles you might want to read on that so that eventually you can find a time to talk to your husband about it.

    The rule we have found helps our marriage is that if one of us has a problem with something, we both do. Because it then is a marriage problem. And we need to take it serious (and not dismiss the importance it is to the other person). It’s a way of honoring the other person even if we think they’re making too big of a deal about it. It’s called giving the other person GRACE. When you take something that is important to our partner into serious consideration and make behavior adjustments– even when you don’t agree, and you find a way to “ease their mind” about it, it’s a type of a love gift that you give to them. God gives us grace, and we should give grace to each other as well.

    I pray you guys will find ways to get through the adjustments you need to make, but work to be respectful when you work through them. Don’t throw respectful behavior out the window. If you do, it will cause corrosion in your relationship.

    I hope this helps in some way, Joy. Keep persevering and find ways to bless each other in the midst of the adjusting. It will go a long way in helping your marriage to grow in the right direction.

  3. (USA)  Hi Cindy, Thanks so much for responding. We do need a lot guidance in our marriage. Giving each other "Grace" is such a good way to put it! How do I approach him to read some of these? He is somehow "arrogant".

    Also how do I deal with a "threesome" marriage? My husband has a 12-year-old female Rottweiler dog who was his "first wife" before me coming along three years ago. I blame the dog for a lot of our problems. The dog needs so much attention that she is ruling our lives. My husband didn’t train the dog or want to train the dog. He thinks "loving" the dog is the way, he doesn’t care that it is a dog and not a person. Thank you. Joy