We are pleased to introduce John Choma as a guest poster this week at Holy Entanglement.
Merriam-Webster defines “argument” as “an angry disagreement.”
My wife Gloria and I have been married for over 33 years – and I can testify that we have (almost) never argued. Of course, many times we’ve disagreed – but never in an angry way. Is that weird?… wonderful?… unbelievable or all of the above?
let’s start with weird
I know for a fact it’s weird, because when our daughter was married a year ago I became very concerned and felt I needed to alert her saying, “You know, you have never heard me and mom argue . . .and you know that’s abnormal . . . right? Almost every couple we know argues and I’ve heard some people tout, “Arguments make for a good marriage.” Really?
I’m taking the alternative point of view. Don’t be misled. Gloria and I need to be vigilant in maintaining the health of our far from perfect union. My motive is not to set others up for failure by pointing you to an unachievable panacea, but it’s my prayer the outcomes of our little two-person research experiment in California could be replicated in other “marriage labs” around the world. So, the rest of this blog is my best attempt at providing a prescription for those seeking “sundowns without anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
value the person and the relationship
Let’s start with the person I married. Recalling the phenomenon of falling in love, in the fog of that state of mind, I remember thinking how blessed I was to find a person with such beautiful characteristics. Therefore if I wanted to preserve and grow those characteristics as a part of our marriage, it was my responsibility to nurture them along the way. I believe it was God’s prompting that caused me to think that angry disagreement was counter productive to that goal. Gloria is a person of strong faith, possessing physical beauty, a dedicated helpmate, both trust-worthy and trusting, steadfast, and tender-hearted. Gloria is never selfish and extremely practical in thought, action and worldview. I hoped to be a husband capable of facilitating further growth in those areas.
Yet, my characteristics and contrarian worldview could have been Gloria’s biggest growth barriers. I’m an impractical dreamer. At 6’5” and over 280 pounds, I am capable of imposing my will in most instances. The problem with that is that Gloria would probably acquiesce out of a sense of duty – the unintended outcome being the depletion of the love of my life – my most treasured advocate.
not immune to conflict
One of the more recent opportunities for an “argue-pollooza” was the prospective remodel of our kitchen. Gloria’s greatest interest was to preserve all the design features of our 1920’s Craftsman home. My interest was to demolish walls to create a more open-feel. This led to months of back and forth discussion. “Why do you…?” “Explain to me…?” “Don’t you think…?” Ugh?!?
getting to “Yes”
It was years into our marriage that I discovered someone had written a book detailing the strategy Gloria and I were employing to produce an outcome both of us could live with while maintaining – even enhancing – our relationship, Getting to “Yes”, by William Ury. Co-founder and Senior Fellow Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. You may have heard his TED Talk or as a featured speaker at the Willow Creek, Global Leadership Summit.
The primary goal of Getting to “Yes” is to set up a negotiation process to gain agreement without either party giving-in. Here are some of the key components of the strategy:
- Don’t get locked into a position
- Seek to fully understand your interests in this negotiation and the other person’s interests
- Peoples interests often represent what they truly value.
- Separate the people from the problem – always respect people and value the relationship
- Look for options to combine each others thoughts and interests – making the solution both acceptable and creative
- Look to reason, logic, standards (Biblical standards) to establish a criteria for how you are to operate or what determines a satisfactory outcome
As for our kitchen, after much dialogue it turns out I am more interested in potentially carving-out a “Man Cave” than ripping out walls and installing French doors exiting to the backyard deck. And now our relationship of Holy Entanglement is free to fully enjoy God’s beautiful sunsets together.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about arguing in marriage. What is your biggest challenge when dealing with controversy with your spouse?
photo credit: picjumbo