Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Arriving home late the other night, I wasn’t aware of being irritable. Certainly I was tired from a long day of counseling, and I received several concerning phone calls just as I was preparing to leave the office.
As I walked in the door of my home I noticed that my wife, Christie was busy on the computer.
Hello,” she said, obviously engrossed in something important.
“Hello” I said, feeling a bit put off by her busyness.
Unaware of my irritation, I shuffled by her, walked upstairs and began changing my clothes. She came upstairs after me.
“You okay?” she asked. “You seem a bit distant.”
“I’m fine,” I said, still uncertain as to what I was feeling. “But, you could have greeted me more nicely when I walked in.”
“You’re right,” she said. “Welcome home.”
“Well, it doesn’t mean as much now,” I said sharply. “Why didn’t you get up and greet me when I came in.”
“David,” she said, pausing. “I love you too much to argue with you.”
“I’m not arguing,” I countered. “I just want to know why you didn’t get up when I came in. You hardly looked up.”
“David,” she said again calmly. “I love you too much to argue with you. I’m sorry I’ve hurt your feelings.”
Her words now began to sink in. In fact, we had rehearsed them a week earlier. How quickly I forgot them.
We just finished our most recent book Love and Logic Magic for a Lasting Relationship. Using "love and logic principles," we literally wrote the book on this technique — refusing to engage in arguing. We had not only written about it but had challenged others to refuse to argue as well. Here I was, weeks after the completion of the book slipping into old, destructive, argumentative behavior. Ouch!
I stepped back and smiled.
“Good job,” I said, the potentially volatile scene diffused by her insight.
“Thank you,” she said. “Have you had a tough day?”
“Yes,” I said. “And I need a hug.”
Christie quickly obliged as I told her of my tiredness. Not only had we averted an argument, but I felt soothed and comforted by her presence. I was in a win-win situation — not only did I not add insult to my already ruffled feelings, but had the close relationship to my wife that I enjoy.
Let’s take a closer look at this strategy that you too can use in your relationship.
First, refuse to argue. Oh yes, I know this is much easier said than done. But, if you anticipate situations that arise, ruffling your feelings, you can also anticipate how to handle them more effectively. Consider all of your relationships—with mate, friends, colleagues—and determine not to engage in arguments.
Second, be alert. Catch yourself walking into the courtroom of life-- where you want to engage in an argument, where you want to poke at someone, where you want to prove a point—into the sanctuary, where you want to connect and be at peace with your mate, your friends and others in your life.
Third, have a ready response, such as "I care about you too much to argue with you.’"This simple phrase is disarming. If you refuse to get hooked by someone’s challenging behavior, you will be much safer. “It takes two to tango” so if someone tries engaging you in a battle, but you refuse to show up, a fight cannot occur. Plus your words can be felt as soothing and comforting further deescalating a volatile situation.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12: 18) This powerful Scripture makes our response clear—be at peace with everyone. While I can only be accountable for my response, my response is powerful. Christie refused to fight with me, and subsequently no fight occurred. She lived out the Scripture beautifully, while it took me a little longer to live peacefully.
Finally, make it your goal to refuse to argue. Stay out of the courtroom in your relationships. Simply refuse to argue and more important, practice the art of neutralizing arguments by telling your friend, mate or colleague that you care too much about your relationship with them to engage in fruitless arguing.
How do you deal with arguments in your marriage? I’d love to hear from you.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.