5 Mistakes We Make When Arguing With Our Wives

Arguing well is an art. I’m not very good at art. Over the past 25 years, I’ve done a lot of what might be the equivalent of finger painting when arguing with my wife. Sure, something was accomplished in the end, but the process was messy and frankly a bit childish. Can you relate?

While every marriage is different, every one involves disagreement, and most involve arguing with your wife. Regardless of how often you and your wife argue, there are ways to argue that lead to real understanding, problem-solving, and progress. Other ways lead to hurt feelings, poor decisions, and, ultimately, regret. Here are 5 mistakes we make when arguing with our wives.

1. Nursing Hurt Feelings

When two people live together it’s inevitable that you will, intentionally or accidentally, hurt each other’s feelings on occasion. Unfortunately, rather than addressing this and reconciling, we often nurse these hurt feelings, repeating a story to ourselves about what our wives really meant and what they really think of us. Then, the next time we have a disagreement, we end up bringing a wave of emotion that has very little to do with the situation at hand, but is rather the result of days, weeks or even years of nursing our hurt feelings.

When your wife says or does something to hurt your feelings, don’t wait, and don’t try to figure out for yourself what she meant. Address it immediately, clarify her intent, and work through it together. It’ll save you a lot of unnecessary stress, and it will greatly improve your arguing with your wife.

2. Waiting for Her to Make the First Move

I remember one time when my wife and I had an argument and she had said something hurtful, I decided to give her the silent treatment until she acknowledged it. It may not surprise you to hear that it didn’t help the situation. Tensions grew and eventually boiled over into yet another argument. Eventually, we worked through it. But it would’ve been far better for both of us if I would’ve addressed it right away.

Sometimes, waiting for her to make the first move is a way for us to control the situation. We want to hold onto our hurt and make her come to us. While this is understandable, it’s also pretty immature. The healthier move is to have the courage to pursue reconciliation, even if she’s the one who needs to apologize. When arguing with your wife, have the courage to initiate.

3. Treating the Argument as a War to Be Won

Arguing with your wife can sometimes devolve into a power struggle. We treat it like it’s not about coming to consensus or working through an issue but about winning. Typically, you know you’re doing this because whenever she’s talking, you’re listening only so you can articulate exactly why she’s wrong. You’re quick to jump in and interrupt her because you’re not really wanting to know what she is saying—you just want to shut her down.

The problem with seeing each argument as a war to be won is that even when you win, you lose. Seeing your wife as the enemy to be defeated is a great way to ensure that when the dust settles, you’ll be further away from a healthy marriage and family than you were when you started. Engage your wife as a partner. Remind yourself that her flourishing is good for you, just as yours is for her.

4. Hiding It From Our Kids

Growing up, my parents would typically take their arguments into their bedroom. On the one hand, I totally get it. They didn’t want us to have to watch them argue. On the other, I never really learned how to do conflict well. I also grew up with a strong fear of conflict, as though it’s something that needs to be hidden.

Certainly there are arguments that might be best worked out in private. But whenever possible, allow your kids to see you disagree. And then check in with them about it. They’ll likely give you some great insight into how you treat each other. They’ll also learn from you that people can love each other deeply and still argue. And if you fight well, you’ll be modeling for them what healthy conflict looks like.

5. Refusing to Admit You Are Wrong

Look, sometimes you’re just wrong. It’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. But there’s a whole lot wrong with refusing to admit it when you know that it’s true. We want our marriages to be safe places for us to be honest and authentic with one another. This can’t happen if either party is too prideful to admit when he or she has made a mistake.

Maybe your wife is bad at this, too. It’s OK. You can go first. If you model humility and honesty, you raise the bar on your arguments. It’s harder for your spouse to hold on to pride when you’re willingly laying yours down. Humility has a way of reproducing itself. Be willing to admit when you are wrong.

Sound off: What other mistakes have you made when arguing with your wife?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some positive ways to argue with someone?”