How to Defuse An Argument with One Simple Habit

I’m not exaggerating when I say Debbie and I have found the secret to resolving our conflicts together…every time. I’m not kidding. It works every time.  It’s not complicated, complex, or difficult to comprehend.  After 19 years of marriage, we’ve realized there has been one simple, common denominator in every conflict resolution of ours.

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But before I get to that, have you ever noticed how conflict rears it’s ugly head at the worst possible moments…like in a restaurant?  You’re supposed to be enjoying a nice evening together and somehow you get derailed by a comment (or issue) that you both get miffed about.  Instead of enjoying each others company over a nice meal, you end up silently staring into your food until the check comes…which can’t come soon enough.

Or how about just before a social event like a family gathering or church?  You don’t have time to resolve the issue, so you put on a smile and pretend everything is fine.  It sucks.

It has the power to steal from us what should otherwise be an enjoyable experience, kill the connection we were walking in, and destroy the affections that were there just a few minutes ago!  Geeze.  I hate that.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know many couples have deep-rooted issues that aren’t simple to resolve.  And yes, I’m generalizing in this post.  However, this one simple-but-rarely-easy step really can diffuse most arguments.  I intentionally left the word “easy” out of the title because it never is.  But it works, if you’re humble enough to do it.  So if you want to know how to defuse an argument quickly, here it is:

OWN UP TO YOUR PART IN THE CONFLICT.  Yep.  It’s simple, but not easy.  Jesus said it this way…

First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly.  -Matthew 7:5

In this passage, Jesus is talking about not hypocritically judging other people, which applies perfectly here.  Arguments occur when two people are judging each other for their words and/or actions, and how it made them feel.

In our marriage, we get hurt, frustrated, and angry which causes us to focus on our spouse and what they’ve said or done.  And in the process, we become oblivious to how we are contributing to the conflict.  And yes, we all contribute to the conflict.

When you’re judging your spouse, you’re not seeing clearly.  You’re not seeing the issue clearly.  You’re not seeing your spouse’s wants, needs, and desires clearly.  And most importantly, you’re not seeing yourself clearly.  Your earnest desire to point out what’s wrong in them is preventing you from clearly seeing,…well… everything; because there’s a plank in your eye!

So, how do we take the plank out?  Focus on how you’re contributing to the conflict and own up to it by expressing it to your spouse.  Do that, and the wall between you will begin to come down.  If you both do it, the wall will come crashing down!

Here’s the thing.  I never feel like owning up and taking responsibility for my part.  Never.  But resolution is more important than my feelings.

Don’t get me wrong.  When it comes to communicating effectively together,… honest disclosure of feelings matter a lot.  But when it comes to doing the right thing for the betterment of my marriage,…feelings don’t matter quite as much.  When it comes to forging new, healthy habits, you’re going to need to push through the old, unhealthy ones.

And one last thing.  We’ve noticed that on the other side of the resolved argument is a deeper understanding and appreciation of what we want, desire, and need from each other.  In other words, a deeper and more fulfilling level of intimacy and joy in our marriage.  And whatever was momentarily stolen can be quickly restored.

I know I’ve barely scratched the surface here, so leave your comment or question below.  Thanks!

    Stephen has been blogging since 2014, and he enjoys writing honestly and openly about married life. He and Debbie are high school sweethearts and have been married for 20 years. They love a meaningful conversation, a rich cup of coffee, an inspiring movie, a perfectly prepared meal, and planning their next vacation.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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    2 thoughts on “How to Defuse An Argument with One Simple Habit

    1. I absolutely love this post! It’s amazing how easy it is to focus on what others are doing wrong (especially in marriage). We live in a country that LOVES to blame. It’s almost like marriage has become some sort of competition to see who does more things “wrong” or “right”.

      Where is humility in marriage? Where is forgiveness? Where is that godly perspective? It’s interesting how many passages in scripture that talk about “confrontation” has TONS of surrounding scripture about “checking ourselves”.

      In my marriage, we always find it easier when we both take blame for arguments. We find the longer the argument, the less responsibility we were taking as individuals. I mean, realistically, it’s difficult to stay mad at someone when they are admiting faults and saying, “I’m sorry” and “Can you forgive me?”. This is especially difficult when it’s the one you love and cherrish.

      Thank you for the encouraging post! It was a great reminder (which we always need) of the importance in recognizing my own responsibility in arguments.

      • I like your wording, Phil. “It’s difficult to stay mad at someone when they are admitting faults…especially when it’s the one you love and cherish.” Very well said!