I Argue Because I Love You
Marriage is tough, guys.
You often hear me touting about how great and wonderful marriage is whenever I've written about it here. Maybe you've noticed that even in those posts, I've made mention to the fact that it's also very hard. It's one of the hardest but most rewarding parts of life. The thing is... I've never really expanded on "the hard parts" and I think that's important too. When people who are un-married read my posts, they aren't seeing the full picture. When I give no more than a fleeting "it's hard" mixed in with "but so wonderful, happy, and great," it probably seems confusing - like, "what the heck, then what's so hard?" Maybe to those who aren't in it, those statements don't make any sense. Today, I'd like to explain how even in the hard parts of marriage, there is good. The parts of marriage that sting or hurt are actually one of the things that makes it beautiful.
Let's dive in.
When I was a kid, I was no stranger to the fact that my peers had parents who were divorced. I knew what it meant and what happened when people got divorced and it scared me. I remember very specifically one evening, when my parents were arguing... and that fear crept in. Feebly, I asked, "... are you going to get divorced?" They stopped and looked at me, surprised. They put their argument aside and explained calmly, in such simple terms (that didn't make sense to me at the time) why I didn't need to worry about that.
"We're arguing because we love each other."
Fast forward to adulthood and married life.
I say adulthood, because how many of you have argued with your best friends and come out all the stronger once you worked it out? College roommate battles? Even growing up with siblings... did all that arguing tear you apart? In relationships and marriage, it is no different. We argue because sometimes we need to. Because we have something to fix, and we care enough to fix it.
Something we try to remember is the difference between arguing/bickering versus fighting. Fighting tends to insinuate that you're on different teams... but no matter how "divided" you may feel about a certain topic, you're married - you're still on the same team. With that in mind, we don't "fight" but we do argue. Frankly, I worry when I hear couples say they never disagree. If there is never a disagreement, that says to me that one or both are not speaking their minds fully, and honesty is being compromised. Again, I have no professional training to say this with authority, but when I think about roommates I had in college (my best friends), when no one spoke up about an obvious issue, there was at least someone who was unhappy. Always. Or someone was building resentment internally because so-and-so never did the dishes. Or so-and-so never cleaned the bathroom. Or so-and-so wasn't timely with their rent portion. Disagreements need to happen for a lasting, healthy relationship. However, extreme or constant arguing might be a sign to learn how to better communicate or get a little counseling.
So what did my parents mean when they said they argue because they love each other? Well here's our take...
- The moment we stop arguing, will be the moment we stop caring enough about our relationship to put in the work it requires.
- When we keep our disagreements to ourselves, we withhold honesty and build resentment.
- When we foster an environment where we can't disagree, we are setting the stage for lax communication that spreads to all areas and facets of our relationship. And will probably create "blow-up" arguments in the future.
- When you start to feel hopeless after a week of bickering here and there, remember that marriage isn't such a fragile entity. One "off-week" isn't creating and "off-marriage." Working through it creates strength and keeping God at the center will give your marriage a lasting basis beyond your own selfishness.
It's tempting, of course, to shut down. Walk away. Give the cold shoulder. But being as we're on the same team, we need to care, understand, show patience, and love. And guess what? Once you're a couple weeks past it, I bet you'll have a hard time remembering what you even argued about in the first place. For example, I only remember the fact that we bickered incessantly for the week leading up to closing on our house because I wrote it down in a journal. I'm bewildered as to what we even bickered about, but the days since then have only been better! That's what I mean when I say marriage can be hard. It is hard... but it tends to be an after-thought because the good truly does outweigh it.
Do I think we should still be slow to anger (Proverbs 19:11)? Absolutely. I think Ephesians 4:15-16 says it well:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Sometimes speaking the truth in love can mean a little arguing, and that's okay... because when you love someone so much, they're worth the 'fight.'
(See 10 Things I've Learned About Marriage to see a little overview of some ground rules we set up from the start to disagree in a healthy way. Disagreements are just inevitable - but how you go about them does matter for the health of your marriage. Again, I'm no professional, but we can all use some tips on how to "fight nice," right? Plus, the other nine things are fun to read too!)