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Turn Arguments to Your Advantage
Calista and Ben were bickering again.
“I think going to a beach for a week would just be so boring,” Ben said, concerning their vacation plans. “Not only would I be bored but you would be, too. You think you just need to lay out in the sun and do nothing, but I know you; you’d get bored so quick. And then what? We’d be stuck on an island with little to do or we’d give it up and lose the rest of our deposit.”
“Not at all,” Calista argued. We would have plenty to do. We could rent bikes. That would be so much fun.
“Every day?” Ben retored. “Who are you kidding? That would get old, fast, too. Or the mosquitos would chase you back to the hotel.”
“So what’s your idea of a great vacation—hiking? I have no energy for that. And camping? Please! Without a hot shower, I wouldn’t call it a vacation.”
“No, we could get showers,” Ben replied reasonably. They have a main house with accommodations at one of the stops on the trail. It’s do-able.
“We have an eight-year old,” Calista reminded. “Have you forgotten?”
“I used to love camping when I was eight,” came Ben’s quick response.
This could go on all night. There are people who tell me their “discussions” do go on all night, and sometimes into the next day. And longer.
What’s wrong with this picture?
If you said, “It never ends, and that’s not the way marriage is supposed to be,” you’d be right. Why would Calista and Ben think it would end any differently? Wouldn’t the first two or three go-arounds demonstrate that this wasn’t working? And if it wasn’t, what do you do?
To answer the first question, people do the same things over and over, not because they are stupid but because they have no idea what else they can do. Furthermore, when a person has a strong position, they forget that another person might not see it their way. It’s astonishing to them that after they give a good explanation of their position and all the reasons for it, the other person didn’t change their mind. These are the two reasons people are doomed to repeat arguments that go round and round and get nowhere.
The solution is to get off the merry-go-round. Another approach is needed.
That other approach starts with respect. Respect means that although you really, really believe in your position, another person just might not see it that way, even after lots of reasons why. Respect means you know when to quit trying to persuade the other person. Respect means you truly can see the other person’s point even though you don’t agree with it.
Now, the easy part. Since you can’t agree on which thing to do or which position to take, you flip a coin.
I can hear you saying, “Are you kidding, DrDeb? It all comes down to that? Are you telling me you can’t ever be on the same page as your spouse?”
Listen, I know you want to feel like you’re a team and that you’re of one mind, but that’s seldom realistic. Yes, there are couples who agree on most things, but more frequently, that’s not the case. And I’d imagine that those who agree on nearly everything are bored being married to their mirrors. It’s more enriching to have a new world of ideas open up to you by a spouse who sees things differently.
That said, if you were first dating, I might alter my position. I might say: Well, do you really disagree on everything? Because if that’s the case, maybe you are too dissimilar from each other to live in harmony. But now you are married. Maybe you have kids. My position changes for married couples: Embrace the differences and enjoy taking life less seriously; i.e., have fun flipping coins.