Who Won the Argument?
By Janel Breitenstein
Question: Between you and your spouse, who’s the one who typically wins arguments?
(I know. Dangerous ground, right?)
Here’s the funny thing I’m learning from conflict. Sometimes “who’s right” is only a very small percentage of a successful argument.
Anyone married any length of time will tell you that even if you win, you can actually lose. To be more specific: You can end up being right … and trampling your spouse.
Your spouse feels belittled, or alienated, or superseded, or simply not heard or understood. Something dear to him or her may not have been treated as important or meaningful or worth feeling by you.
And honestly? That means both of you lost.
Sometimes there’s a lot revealed in the questions we ask ourselves. Even the question, “Did I do the right thing?” can blow past other important questions. First Corinthians 13:1-4, for example, reminds us that we can do it all right and still gain nothing if we don’t have love.
Our desire to be right or do right can sometimes be so fierce that we’re afraid to hear what we’re doing wrong.
It can keep us from changing. From truly entering into our spouse’s concerns and imagining what their world is like.
“Right” can block out humility and true care.
Conflict is an opportunity to honor God—in ways like these and more:
- Trusting Him.
- Loving our spouse well.
- Depending on Him.
- Seeking His purposes rather than ours.
- Becoming more fruitful as we understand perspectives and desires beyond our own.
- Growing to be like Jesus.
- Letting go of desires that have ballooned into idolatrous demands.
So “winner of the argument” ironically does not go to the one who argues best.
If the winner of the argument isn’t both of you—often, you both lose.
Go for the real win.
The good stuff: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Action points: The next time a conflict is brewing between the two of you, take time to look your spouse in the eyes and ask sincerely, “What do you wish I understood right now?” Help your spouse to feel heard. And work toward a solution that addresses both of your interests that lie beneath the presenting issue.
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