Unfortunately, our society has made us feel like when we disagree, we cannot love each other and we cannot work through our differences. When someone disagrees with us, we feel personally offended, like all the hard work and research that we put into our opinions were squashed by one sweeping blow of another person’s opinion. But that’s not the way that God intended us to live in community. We are all made in God’s image, and through that we each display unique attributes that all help us see God in humanity.
How do you and your spouse handle disagreements in your marriage?
Based on what I have heard from counselors and other people who have experience with disagreement (everyone but us, of course!), here are some practical tips for dealing with disagreement:
- Submit to one another. Ephesians 5 says that we should submit to one another. That means that when you’re in a disagreement, one of you needs to “give up” and let your spouse win. I’ve heard conservative couples say that the wife should always submit to the husband, but sometimes the wife has some valid points that the husband needs to consider, so he shouldn’t have the mindset that his opinion is the only one that matters.
- Look at the bigger picture. Prayer helps us have a better perspective on the issues that we face. Is it really life-threatening that he wants a blue rug, but she wants an orange one? Is it really going to destroy your marriage if he wants to go to Puerto Rico on vacation and she wants to go to the Bahamas? There are obviously more serious disagreements, such as where you are going to live and how you’re going to spend your money, but above everything else, you need to remember to make a decision together. There is no perfect decision, but there is always a way to make a decision that makes you both comfortable.
- Write a pro-con list. You can’t ignore the facts. If one person wants to move out of state and the other doesn’t, for example, look at the benefits (saving money, getting a bigger house, more work opportunities) and the threats (smaller salaries, being away from family, having to move your child out of school) of making either decision. You may think your way is better, but listen to your spouse and look at the facts together. Be open to changing your mind.
- Avoid trigger words. It is only natural for us to be personally offended when someone disagrees with us. But don’t let it happen. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way of a decision that is being made. Avoid phrases such as “What are you talking about?” “What is your problem?” and “What is wrong with you?” I don’t care who is right in this situation. If you talk to your spouse like that, he/she will definitely tune out and not give your idea even a second thought.
The most important thing to remember is that disagreement does not equal fighting. At least, it doesn’t have to involve fighting. According to the Bible, when a man and a woman get married, they become one flesh. We are called to consistently and continually become one throughout our marriage. We learn to compromise, we learn to communicate, and we learn to make decisions together. It is a practice that takes time, but must not be detrimental to the marriage.
What tips do you agree with? What tips would you add to this list?