Do you and your spouse fight “well”?
That’s not a trick question. There really is such a thing as “healthy conflict” in marriage.
Here at Focus, we find that couples fall into one of three beliefs about marital conflict. One is the group who enters marriage expecting an unrealistic level of agreement and perfection in their relationship. If they’re truly happy and meant for one another, they believe, there shouldn’t be any conflict. That’s not a very realistic view of human relationship.
Another group of couples understand they’ll have conflict, but they believe the solution is to vent all of their anger at each other until they somehow arrive at a solution. There’s a lot to be said for making your point and getting important issues on the table. But just spewing your anger onto one another is destructive.
In fact, there’s a lot of research to show that chronic and poorly handled conflict is harmful to children. Here are the two most important people in a child’s life, and they’re being nasty to each other. That places an unbelievable amount of stress on a child. Children function best with emotional stability and safety in the home.
And that leads to the third group of couples. If you find yourself in either of the first two groups, our goal on today’s program is to move you closer to this third one. These couples resolve conflict in a way that honors God and builds up their relationship rather than tearing it down.
How do we go about arguing well, so our disagreements don’t destroy our marriage? Well, here are a few things to consider:
- Listen: When healthy couples disagree, they listen respectfully to one another. Many couples are so determined to get their point across they don’t really listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings. They want to win the argument instead of resolve the problem.
- Stay Calm: No matter how passionate they feel about their disagreement, healthy couples avoid yelling and calling each other names. Not only will destructive behavior not solve anything, it’ll drive a wedge between a husband and wife. That causes even further conflict down the road.
- Never Threaten Divorce: Emotions can run high in an argument. If a spouse needs to, they can walk out of the room to calm down. But they never make threats to end their marriage. At best, that’s a way to manipulate the situation to get their own way. At worst, it’ll damage the relationship well-beyond the issue they’re arguing about.
We’ll talk about all of this and much more on our program, “Arguing Well in Your Marriage,” with our guest Dr. Scott Stanley. Dr. Stanley is a research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver.
He’ll share how we can improve our marital communication skills and help us understand how to disagree with our spouse without being disagreeable.
It is possible. Remember: Even healthy couples disagree. They remain healthy by treating each other with respect even in the midst of conflict. Toxic fighting is about winning the argument. Healthy fighting is about resolving the problem while protecting the relationship.