Are arguments good for a marriage? I would say that the answer is, "It depends."
We each have our own style of interacting. Personally, I don't enjoy conflict. Other couples almost seem to need to argue. Regardless of your preferences, though, an argument can't always be avoided.
Some couples, however, seldom argue. How do they avoid doing so? Perhaps they're masters at discussing and diffusing conflict and that's awesome. If instead they think there's no point to raising and debating topics of contention or fear an endless cycle of blame and personal put downs, then they may have simply given up on their marriage. And this is a very unhealthy state for their relationship to be in. When an opportunity presents itself to cut ties, they may make a break for it.
Other couples argue frequently. A lot, in fact. Their voices climb in volume. But, and this is a significant 'but,' they limit their arguing to the point(s) of disagreement. They may be more animated, but they aren't attacking each other. They're passionate about explaining and defending their position but they're also respectful and considerate of their partner's right to do the same.
In the image above, you see a couple living a passionate and magical moment. Maybe this is the conclusion of an argument fairly broached and resolved. There's no image here of the couple in the midst of the argument because it is very difficult to find such an image without both partners looking like they want to hurt each other. The concept of a healthy, passionate disagreement seems all too foreign in society and it's time to change that perception.
Firstly, here is a summary of the 'givens' to needs and wants in a marriage:
- You have needs and wants seeking fulfillment.
- So does your partner.
- Healthy needs being met and fulfilled is good for a marriage.
- Both of you need to feel secure.
- Your need may make your partner feel insecure and vice-versa.
Next, how can arguments be healthy for your marriage?:
- Release of pent-up frustrations.
- Often, arguing your point will reveal the cause(s) of your frustration(s).
- Problems brought to light can help resolve long-held resentment.
- It it far healthier to energetically argue than to turn frustration or anger inwards as depression.
That said, how do you argue your points effectively?
Here are 5 key ground rules when arguing with your spouse:
- Remember that they are your beloved.
- Speak to your spouse with respect.
- No name calling or belittling.
- Don't ignore each other.
- Never be threatening with your words or actions.
A disagreement doesn't mean that the relationship is over. In fact, we need to feel free and safe to disagree on a regular basis if both partners are to express their needs and wants. Denying oneself is definitely not healthy and will end up producing more stress and perhaps even mental illness in the likes of anxiety or depression.
To successfully minimize the frequency and maximize the benefits of arguing your point of view, here are 4 essential habits to adopt:
- Establish regular times where you get together with your spouse to share your needs.
- Welcome your partner's input when they provide it.
- Be on the lookout for signs of frustration from either of you; stop and discuss them.
- Affirm your understanding of each other's needs.
Problems arise when emotions are expressed in a negative way. Condemning, ridiculing or stonewalling are recipes for disaster. Agree to disagree. Remember how precious your partner is. An argument is just an argument. If you can be proactive and avoid one that's great. But, if it happens, let it be a positive experience for both of you. When you both feel heard, better understood and are more motivated to move forwards as a couple, the argument is obviously good for your marriage.
What do you do, though, when your needs conflict with your partner's, as they sometimes will? What if your need is threatening to them? For example, you would like your elderly mother to move in with you. Your partner, however, sees that you and your mother are always fighting and doesn't want your home being turned into a war zone. This is where you need to understand each other and work on a solution that is acceptable to both of you. Just how you go about that will be the topic of the next post.
Until then, I wish you love, patience and commitment.