Don't Argue to Win, Press Toward Resolution
Rev. Fr. Charles Joanides, Ph.D., LMFT
When you find yourselves caught in a serious disagreement, don’t argue to win. Instead, press to resolution together. All too often, rather than pressing toward mutually satisfying resolutions, many couples argue to win. And when couples make this choice, one of two outcomes usually occur. Either they’ll end up in a lose/lose outcome, or a win/lose outcome. Let me explain what I mean.
An Argue-to-win Philosophy
When both partners argue to win, and their disagreements repeatedly fail to get resolved, this is typical of a lose/lose outcome because neither partner wins, which means that both partners end up as losers.
In other instances, one partner wins the argument and the other loses. This is typical of a win/lose outcome, because one partner gets their way, and the other doesn’t.
In either case, the bottom line is that neither arguing style is effective. That’s because neither one of these arguing styles leads couples to mutually satisfying resolutions that are suitable to both partners. This also means that in the aftermath of an argument, either one or both partners will likely end up frustrated, angry and resentful.
But that’s not all that happens. When one or both partners espouse an argue-to-win philosophy, not only do they suffer as individuals, marital oneness is compromised, and a turning away from one another occurs.
If This Applies
If what I’ve said applies to your arguing style, my advice is that you stop arguing to win, and learn to press toward mutually satisfying resolutions that suit both partners.
“But that’s easier said than done,” some of you might be thinking. “How do we do that? We’re so stuck in our ways!” Here’s a good that should help make a difference.
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit - Christ-like love (Gal 5:22) - can help you remove the obstacles that prevent you from pressing toward resolution together. That’s because Christ-like love isn’t a selfish, self-absorbed kind of love. Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians makes this point very clearly. In this letter he writes, Christ-like “…love is patient and kind…it is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. [Chrtist-like] Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful… [Christ-like] Love bears all things, believes all things. Hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor. 13:4-5, 7).
I think you’d agree that this kind of love - which is a byproduct of a Christian lifestyle - can help you avoid the tendency to argue to win. That because Christ-like love respects and values our needs and, our partner’s needs; Christ-like love perceives a couple-issue from our perspective, and our partner’s perspective; Christ-like love considers our pain, and our partner’s pain; Christ-like love considers our frustrations, as well as our partner’s frustrations.
So, if most of your arguments are ending with two clear losers, or one clear winner and one clear loser, then I’d recommend that you make some space in your arguments for Christ-like love. In addition, if most of your arguments are only about winning, and not about what’s mutually satisfying for the two of you, then maybe it’s also time for you to make some space for Christ-like love in your arguments.
Creating Space for Christ-Like Love
One way to create the space for Christ-like love is for you personally to spend some time considering how much God loves you. Once you’ve spent time contemplating upon the love that God has for you, consider how fulfilling it is to know that you are one of God’s children, and He loves you. Then consider how much of a positive difference His love has had on you, and the way you feel about yourself. Do this at least six times daily for the next six weeks at these times: when you get up, before breakfast, while you’re commuting to work, before lunch, when you’re commuting back home and just before you go to sleep.
This short exercise will help get you in touch with your core Christian values, which then in turn will function to detoxify feelings like shame, guilt, fear, anger and resentment...which ultimately are behind spouses’ tendency to argue to win.
It Won’t be EasyAdmittedly, it won’t be easy to make space for Christ-like love, especially in the beginning. It’ll take all your will power to choose to permit Christ-like love into your arguments. But if you’re committed to this choice, new habits will emerge that will create new pathways toward mutually satisfying resolutions, increased oneness and enhanced connection. The reason I can make this last statement is because I’ve seen this change occur in numerous couples’ lives, and it can happen in your lives as well.