“Stop being so overdramatic.”
“I highly doubt that.”
Eek! These are just a few of the snide remarks I have used during disagreements with my husband—the ones that didn’t go over so well. As my husband bristled at my words, the conversations took sharp turns toward embarrassment and frustration. I used to think, “He just can’t handle me ever disagreeing with him.” But that wasn’t the case. I learned that the way I was disagreeing was not the best.
So I tried different approaches and found that instead of closing his ears, he opened them. I learned I could disagree without fighting with him. Here are 4 tips (summed up in one word) that anyone can use to learn how to argue respectfully with your spouse.
T — Take the boxing gloves off.
Before you start talking, check your tone of voice and body language. Remember that you can disagree without a fight. Begin by telling him your perspective—without insulting his. I like to think about Proverbs 14:29, which says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Here are some examples of how to start:
- “The way I see it…”
- “I feel like…”
- “I’m not sure I agree because….”
- “I hear what you’re saying, but my thoughts are…”
A — Ask questions.
Sometimes we don’t agree because we simply don’t fully understand all the reasoning behind each other’s perspectives. So don’t jump to conclusions and assume he has no good reasons. Ask questions in a simple, inquisitive way, that doesn’t sound like you think he’s an idiot.
Did you know the majority of men are afraid they aren’t measuring up? Your husband may never come out and say it, but he needs your approval and encouragement more than anyone else’s in his life. When your tone sounds like you think he’s an idiot, he thinks, “This is proof. She thinks I’m an idiot.” So be careful to treat his opinions as valid. If you don’t understand him at first, ask questions, like:
- “How did you come to this conclusion?”
- “Why do you think that?”
- “When did you start feeling this way?”
L — Listen carefully and validate him along the way.
Often, we are so passionate about our own opinions, feelings, and reasons that we aren’t stopping to really listen to the other person’s. When both of you are listening and sharing, you can come to a better compromise.
Some simple, practical ways of listening well are not interrupting, keeping eye contact, and repeating back what you understand he is saying.
K — Think about the kids.
When a disagreement pops up, we sometimes forget we have a young audience watching and learning from us. That doesn’t mean we should never disagree in front of the kids and always have a fake smile on our faces. In fact, seeing the occasional tiff being resolved in a healthy way is a tool to teach kids how to argue respectfully with your spouse.
Disagreeing respectfully in front of the kids lets the kids know that you are two different people, with different ideas and perspectives—and it lets them know that that’s OK! You are still on the same team in the end. Disagreeing respectfully reassures kids that the family structure is stable and healthy.
But what if it’s not me?
What if you are disagreeing in a respectful way but he’s not following suit? That can happen, especially if your normal way of disagreeing is duking it out with harsh words. It might get worse before it gets better. But I want to encourage you: Try responding in a different way anyway. It may be difficult at first. You will have to bite your tongue. And it may take time. But if you persevere, your husband is likely to reciprocate.
Romans 12:17 says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”
Would you say you know how to argue respectfully with your spouse? What could you change? What could he change?