The Importance of Win-Win Arguments in Your Marriage

Win, Lose or Draw

Win, Lose or Draw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are having that same argument about money again.  One person believes the money needs to be spent and the other person believes the money should be saved.  Sometimes the argument is spoken out loud and sometimes the argument is done silently, nonetheless the same argument is replayed over and over.  If the spender gets their way then they are happy to have won this round, if the saver gets their way then they are happy to have won.  In both cases the opposing spouse often feels like the loser of the argument desperately trying to figure out how to win the next round.

Everyone falls into this trap sometime; maybe the issue is manifests differently but the pattern is the same.  The problem is not the issue per say, but rather the outcome.  There are three possible outcomes to any argument: win-lose, lose-lose and win-win.  However, in a marriage only two of the three outcomes are really possible.

Lose-Lose.  In lose-lose outcomes, both spouses walk away feeling as if nothing was resolved and words were unnecessarily spoken.  The argument may have escalated beyond the issue into past behavior, words, and/or feelings or additional unrelated topics may have entered the argument.  Lose-Lose outcomes occur when both sides lose track of the topic and begin the finger-pointing game.  The reality is that both of you are on the same team in a marriage so every lose-lose argument becomes destructive rather than constructive.

Win-Lose.  In win-lose outcomes, if one of you feels like they have lost, then in actuality both of you have lost because a marriage is a team of two people.  One spouse trying to get the upper hand of the other is like pampering your right hand over your left.  Even if one hand does more work than the other, both are equally important while serving separate functions.  So when one spouse walks away from the argument feeling like they have not been heard, there is no real agreement and the win-lose outcome becomes a lose-lose outcome.

Win-Win.  In win-win outcomes, both spouses feel heard, feel safe, feel valued, and feel respected.  This is by far the most time-consuming outcome of the three but it is also the most rewarding and will strengthen your marriage in the process.  As the win-win concept becomes a goal in your arguments, you will find that it takes less and less work to reach the outcome because you have already laid out the ground work for mutual understanding.  Notice that the win-win outcome is not about who is right but rather about each of you feels at the end.  One spouse maybe right all along but how they value the other spouse’s opinion or perspective makes all the difference.

As a side note, submission in a marriage is not about winning or losing in an argument, rather it is a gift of trust given from the heart just as loving unconditionally is a gift given from the heart.  A person demanding submission or love misses out on the true value of the gift just like a child demanding a present misses out on the joy of receiving something unexpected.  Once demanded, it does not satisfy quite like the unexpected gift.

Striving for win-win outcomes in your arguments is a struggle but in the end it is worth the effort.  So the next time you are tempted to end the argument by railroading over your spouse, stop and consider the value of your team.  If your marriage is important to you, then the extra time to make it work is well worth it.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How to Fight Fair and Win an Argument

Have you ever had a fight with your computer?  Everything is going fine one minute and the next thing you know the computer begins to act up.  It starts with one program and then leads to another.  You fight back by shutting down the dysfunctional program and trying to control or anticipate the next problem.  It retaliates back by doing something new and unexpected and before you realize what is happening you are doing battle with an inanimate object and sadly it is winning.

If fighting with an inanimate object is frustrating, try fighting with a human.  You begin on one topic and before you know it you are on another topic that has nothing to do with the original topic and you can’t even remember why you were fighting in the first place.  Talk about unpredictable and frustrating.  However, it does not have to be this way.  There is a better way to fight if you think of it in terms of how you handle your computer properly.

Pay attention to the problem at hand.  Just because your computer is acting up does not mean that the entire computer is bad or that it must be replaced.  It just means that something is not working and it needs your attention.  Just as you look for the underlying issue with your computer troubles, so you should look for the underlying issue at the root of your fight.  If the underlying issue is fear, then address the fear; if the underlying issue is guilt or shame, then address the guilt or shame.  Focus your efforts on the one area that is not working instead of all of the other areas, just as you would focus on your computer problem and not your office problem, your relationship problem, your car problem, and any other problem that you may have.

Patience, patience, patience.  Banging on your computer or pressing multiple buttons at one time when your computer is acting up will not solve your issue but it will most likely add to your troubles.  When fighting, be patient with yourself and the other person just as you would be patient with your computer.  Getting angry at the computer for acting up will not stop it from acting up and getting angry with the person you are fighting with will not minimize the tension but add to it.  Just as having an “I’m in charge” attitude with your computer is unproductive so is having an “I’m in charge” attitude with the other person unproductive.  Even if they are in a subordinate role, forcing someone to comply will only aggravate the problem.

Press the restart button.  When all else fails, press the restart button on your fighting just as you would on your computer.  Instead of continuing to fight, choose to walk away and come back to the issue later when emotions have calmed down.  The key is to come back later to the issue; walking away and not addressing the issue is as unproductive as never turning on your computer again just because it did not work that one time.  It is even more important to come back to the person with an attitude of working out the issue and not with an attitude of “I’m right and you are wrong”.  If you went to your computer and said, “I’m right and you are wrong” do you think it would respond better?  No.  So if you treat an inanimate object with respect, how much more respect should you treat another human being.

You have a winning relationship with your computer when you learn to address the problems and not ignore the warning signs that something is wrong.  Your relationships are similar when you take the focus off of yourself and focus instead on meeting the needs of the other person.  Winning a fight is not about getting your way, it is about coming to a realization that we are all in this process of life together.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How not to Shutdown in an Argument with your Spouse

Have you ever experienced this?  You are in the middle of explaining a problem to your spouse and instead of listening to what you are saying, they are picking apart the most ridiculously details.  Frustrated, you try to answer and return back to the problem but they are so stuck on the wrong word you used or your tone of voice that you don’t even want to continue.  So instead of having another argument, you decide to shut down and keep your comments to yourself.

Now you have another problem on top of the original problem and so it builds until you just want to explode.  While there is nothing wrong with deciding not to argue about semantics, not voicing your opinion can breed resentment which turns into anger and eventually bitterness.  So what can you do?  Instead of replaying the argument over and over from your perspective, try to replay the argument as if you were a third-party looking from the outside.  Then evaluate the situation with these points in mind.

Recognize.  As you replay the argument, look for similar patterns of behavior from previous exchanges.  For instance, if the argument involved another person is there a tone in your voice that indicates aggression, depression, obsession, or oppression towards that person?  Could the way you say something trigger a response in your spouse because they are naturally inclined to defend that person? Recognize the non-verbal communication and see if there is a look, a lack of engagement, or a distraction that is also triggering a negative response.  Oftentimes it is not the obvious answers that are the most revealing.

Remember.  Replay the argument again and this time, take into consideration the timing of the argument.  Did you confront your spouse while they were in the middle of something else?  Did you confront them on the same day when a thousand other things went wrong?  Were they overly tired and would have benefited from some sleep first?  Remember the circumstances surrounding the argument and see if their response would have been similar no matter who was confronting them in that moment.

Restore.  One more time, replay the argument and look for ways you could have resolved the conflict without shutting down.  Sometimes it is as simple as telling your spouse that you will answer all of their questions at the end of your explanation or not entertaining their question at all until you are done speaking.  Instead of refusing to get your point across, look for shorter ways to explain your point or start with your point first and then share the story.  Restore your relationship rather than allowing an argument to tear it apart.

Having said all of this, there are some spouses who already have disengaged from their marriage and the distraction tactic is an effort to reinforce or justify their disengagement.  If this has happened, then when you try to bring up the argument again, they will reply in a similar manner.  If not, then review the three points and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.