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adfontes.ca: Arguments that Kill your Marriage by Paul Carter

Good Arguments, Bad Arguments:

“In a marriage there are good arguments and bad arguments” begins Paul Carter in his article, Arguments that Kill your Marriage. “Some arguments are both necessary and helpful. An argument that settles an issue that has been an on-going source of tension is a good argument…

But not every argument is a good argument. Some arguments are unhelpful and some arguments are downright deadly. In my experience the following 4 arguments should be avoided like the plague:

1. Arguments about arguments

Generally speaking, when you find yourself arguing about how you argue its time to seek pastoral or professional counsel. This is a bad road to go down.

Try having a conversation about the agreed upon rules for marital dialogue when you are not engaged in a particular conflict. When you are both in a good state of mind agree on some basic ground rules. You might consider the following:

a. One issue at a time. Let’s agree to try and resolve the current issue without dragging other issues in unless they are directly related.

b. Let’s agree that crying is permitted as long as its genuine and doesn’t get used to shut down a necessary conversation.

c. Let’s agree that not every argument has to be pressed toward an immediate resolution. Calling a pause is not stalling or running away. Some people simply process faster than others.

d. No name calling.

e. No threats. You can’t say “That’s it, I’m out of here”.

It might even be a good idea to write your rules down. Once they’re on paper than you shouldn’t need to rehash them every time. This can save you a great deal of emotional energy.

2. Arguments about feelings, reactions and responses

All people are entitled to instinctive and natural feelings and responses…

Martin Luther said… that you can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. Therefore, for the health of your marriage ignore the birds and only argue over nests.

3. Arguments about identity

Good arguments focus on actions and words. Bad arguments target identity and essence…

Arguments about identity are devastating because they communicate an essential dissatisfaction with the other person. It sounds like you are saying “I wish I wasn’t married to you. I don’t respect you. I want out.”

That’s a marriage killer.

People view their own actions and words from a bit of a distance. Only a complete ego-maniac thinks that all of their words and actions are above reproach. Most of us are aware that we frequently do and say dumb things and therefore it is far less stressful to speak about the things we’ve said or done than it is to speak about who we are. Most people can only feel safe when they know that they are loved and respected – even if some of their actions and words need immediate correction.

4. Arguments that never end

A good argument has an obvious end… A bad argument has no conceivable end.

There are two common varieties of the never-ending argument. The first variety is the “merry-go-round” argument. In this argument the stimulus is on-going but there is no chance for resolution because of underlying disagreement…

The second type of never ending argument is the “infinite side track” argument. In this argument any time one individual feels threatened he or she introduces a side-track or a red herring…

There are so many twists and turns in this argument that both parties decide it isn’t worth the bother. This is deadly and it quickly leads to a sense of defeatism. There is no point in talking about anything because the arguments never go anywhere.

Side tracking is generally a defense mechanism used by a person who feels rushed, overwhelmed and accused. Such a person usually does better with advance notice and a clearly defined agenda…

All 4 of these bad arguments can do serious harm to an otherwise healthy relationship. The good news is that a marriage is a living thing. And like all living things if we stop doing what is harmful we should see healing, life and growth once again. If you’ve been engaging in any of these marriage killing arguments now is a great time to confess that and to extend grace and mercy to one another. Now is a great time to pray and to ask God for help in breaking free of these destructive patterns so as to speak life and health and blessing over one another once again.

Marriage is a gift. Guard it. Feed it. Grow it. Weed it.”

For the full article see “Arguments that Kill your Marriage” by Paul Carter.