All married couples have disagreements. Some spouses battle fiercely, leaving deep wounds and permanent scars. Others manage conflict with wisdom and self-control. Below are some suggestions that enable husbands and wives to disagree without being disagreeable:
Choose an Appropriate Time and Place. It isn’t right to argue in public – at a restaurant or in a department store. Discuss differences in strict privacy (so that even the children can’t overhear), preferably when neither spouse is sick, hungry, or tired.
Avoid Exaggeration. Words like “always” and “never” are usually too big to be true. “You never help me around the house,” for instance, is false if the husband accused of laziness has taken out the garbage even once. Negative generalizations tend to be inflammatory.
Use “I” Statements. “I felt embarrassed” gains sympathy and maybe an apology. “You embarrassed me” may trigger anger and defensiveness.
Be Quick to Apologize and Forgive. Refusing to offer a sincere and humble apology prolongs an argument. Failing to forgive has the same effect. If, for example, an apology is met with stony silence, the offender may become angry again and say even more hurtful things.
Stay Focused. If the dispute concerns the checkbook, talk about the checkbook. Bringing up the annoying habits of a cantankerous mother-in-law is pouring gas on the fire.
All these guidelines find their basis in the teaching of Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matt. 7:12). Practicing the Golden Rule in marriage enables a couple to avoid unnecessary conflict and to resolve the problems that do come up.