Remember Tom & Jerry? Tom, the cat, regularly set elaborate traps for Jerry, the mouse, that Tom inevitably would get caught up in himself. No matter how many times it backfired, by the next episode, Tom had forgotten everything he’d ever learned and started setting traps again. Of course the joke was that we all knew where this was going.
In the same way, we regularly set traps when we argue with our wives, despite the fact that again and again, we wind up in them ourselves. This might simply be humorous, except that unlike Jerry, who escaped Tom’s traps, our wives often get pulled into them with us. That can lead to real and lasting pain. Here are the 5 most common traps men set in arguments with their wives.
If you want to make it nearly impossible to get anywhere in an argument, take zero responsibility for things being as they are. Not only does it immediately put her on the defense, making conversation incredibly difficult, but it also overlooks the fact that you are part of the problem. Look—maybe she’s wrong. But there is almost always at least some small part of the status quo that you can take responsibility for. If you begin acknowledging how you can do better, you are far more likely to build trust that leads to openness and genuine conversation.
2. Checking Out
Sometimes, we get so frustrated with the nature of the discussion that we just check out. You might still be there in body, but your mind is somewhere else: the game, that work deadline, the house project. This is just a means of escape when we feel overwhelmed. But it makes constructive forward movement nearly impossible. When you notice this happening, consider asking your wife for a moment to collect your thoughts. Take a walk. Pray. Do whatever you need to do to get your head back in the game and come back able and willing to stay in the conversation.
3. Weaponizing WordsYour words can kill your relationship if you carelessly decide to use them to hurt your wife.
As Proverbs says, “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” Your words can kill your relationship if you carelessly decide to use them to hurt your wife. If someone is throwing things at you, you will respond either by holding up a shield, running away, or firing back. All of this leads us further away from the connection that we truly long for with each other.
4. Copping Out
It’s easy to come up with excuses to explain away our behavior. It’s not particularly difficult to identify factors that make you do what you do. But, again, this isn’t particularly helpful. Your circumstances are often beyond your control. If you allow that to be an excuse for your poor choices, then you will not grow—and neither will your relationship with your wife. Again, personal accountability is key. This doesn’t mean there aren’t sometimes very good reasons why we fall short. But the only way to grow is to first look in the mirror.
5. Fighting to Win
If you’re fighting to win, you’ll probably lose. You’ll lose trust. You’ll lose connection. Even if you win the fight, in the end, you will have lost in a way that will be far more costly. Don’t get me wrong. You may still want to help your spouse see things differently. She may be wrong and changing her mind might be very important. However, if you win the argument with your wife and lose the connection, you lose. Argue in such a way as to preserve your connection, even as you’re trying to make a point.
Sound off: What other traps do men fall into when arguing with their wives?
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What do I do in arguments that you wish I wouldn’t?”