Christian Living


Marriage 911 07/09/17

Winning an Argument Means Losing

Unhappy married couple

It is so very easy to get caught up in a power struggle with your mate. No one is easier to tussle with than your mate, which is naturally so since you spend so much time together.

I watched yet again as couple attending a Marriage Intensive here at The Marriage Recovery Center clawed and fought for what they wanted from each other, all the while becoming more and more exhausted and discouraged.

Even more surprising than their ongoing battle was the fact that they were oblivious to engaging in this struggle with each other. It was only after minutes of battling that they looked over at me, exhausted.

"Do you notice what is happening here?" I asked.

Jackie had tears in her eyes as her husband, Thad, stared at her angrily. Married for seven years, they had come here as a "last ditch effort to save our marriage."

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

Neither spoke after their power struggle, sitting with their pain and feelings of fear and rejection. Both desperately wanted to save their marriage and wanted reassurance from the other. Yet when speaking to each other from their 'hurting self,' could only speak more hurtful words.

"Hurting people hurt people," I said to them. "You're both trying to get what you need, but the way you are doing it only pushes your mate away, leaving you feeling even more rejected and hurt."

"But, I'm not asking for that much," Thad blurted out. "I just want her to stop yelling at me."

"And I want you to stop yelling at me," Jackie retorted.

"Hold on folks," I said. "You're starting it all over again--telling the other what you want, but doing it in a critical, angry voice. Power struggles are a good way to lose power, and NOT get what you want. No one wins in a power struggle!"

"I don't start it," Jackie responded defensively. "He starts it."

"If you respond defensively," I countered, "you're buying in. You're continuing the vicious cycle."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I mean, someone has to stop the bickering, settle things down and speak from a calm, clear place."

"That's easier said than done," Thad said.

"You're so right," I said. "We try to grab and get what we want, instead of caringly and compassionately asking for what we need. We push for a certain outcome rather than seek ways we can offer concessions."

And so goes the vicious cycle until someone decides the pattern is not working for them. They speak from their wounds, biting word after biting word, serving only to push the other further away. They try to get what they want, using power to coerce change in the other, yet only becoming more exhausted.

"You both want love and affection from the other," I said softly. "You both want to be held and to be told the other is there for you. You both want to be hugged and reassured that things will be okay."

"Yes," Thad said anxiously. "I was left in a former marriage, and I'm frightened that Jackie is going to leave me too."

"Wow, Thad," I said. "That was honest and said in a way that I bet touches Jackie's heart."

Indeed, Jackie turned to him and patted his leg. I could feel the shift in the room. Jackie's heart had softened. Why? Because Thad talked in a way that connected to Jackie, not push her away. He had spoken from his Most Vulnerable Self, asking for what he needed. He was ready to make concessions. She responded in kind.

Consider some of these tools for giving up power struggles and asking for what you need:

1. Emotions are contagious.

Yes, I've said this again and again. Emotions attract like emotions. If I respond to you angrily, you're more likely to respond angrily back. If, on the other hand, I respond from a soft, sensitive place, I'm more likely to 'hook' that soft, sensitive place in my mate.

2. Power struggles don't work.

I can't make my mate do anything. The more I try to coerce her to change, the more pushback I'm going to get. The more I scold, ridicule, or chastise him/ her, the more that language and emotion comes back to bite me.

3. Power struggles are exhausting.

Power struggles—attempts to make a mate change—lead to resistance and resentment. You find yourself harboring anger and bitterness that is draining. Sincerity works. Vulnerability works. Sitting down and having heart to heart conversation works. These moments are exhilarating, not exhausting.

4. Instead of power struggles, ask kindly and respectfully for what you want.

Be specific. If you need a hug, ask for it. If you want reassurance, ask for it. If you want to spend more time with your mate, ask for it. Clear, constructive conversations lead to healthier outcomes.

5. Make concessions and keep agreements.

Remember what your mate wants and needs. Remind yourself about what is important to him/ her and seek to get that for them. You will make unbelievable points by surprising your mate with some earlier request, letting them know you've been thinking about them. Remember, Scripture tells us: "Carry each others burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

Angry, coercive conversations are poison in a relationship. Soft, gentle words are soothing and exciting. Watch for words and phrases that seem to push your mate away, and continue those words that seem to draw them close. Notice the difference.

Do you seek to get your own way or do you seek to make concessions? We are here to help. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, includingother free videos and articles. Please send responses and inquiries to me at info@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website.You'll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

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