Silent Arguments

What's the point to arguing with my husband when I can recite both parts in my head and eliminate the aggravation? Here's what else I've learned about conflict.

My husband, Alvin, and I have been married so long that we no longer argue. What's the point when I can recite both parts in my head and eliminate the aggravation? Twenty-two years into our marriage, when we boil down an argument, the simmering essence remains the same: my tone of voice.

My dearly beloved fails to appreciate the self-discipline I muster to snarl, "Okay, fine." I choke back shrill replies to voice the right response, yet he remains unimpressed. What I tout as self-control, he regards as the source of our woes. He says my tone of voice poisons my words.

This logic launches me into defensive mode. Thus a silent argument is born.
These are the final moments of our typical argument:
Me: Words matter more than tone.
Him: Wrong. Your tone of voice says everything.
Me: Not true. I agreed with you.
Him: You didn't mean it.
Me: I said it though. That counts.
Him: How would you like it if I spoke to you in that sarcastic tone?
Me: That is not the point.
Him: It is the point.
Me: Fine.
(Cue the silent treatment.)

Over the years, I've come up with remedies to some pesky arguments. Here are a few.

Give Up and Win

Why argue when you'll reach the same impasse for the umpteenth time? Your husband may never comprehend the beauty of saving money by spending money. He accounts for every penny while you possess only a vague inkling of the checkbook balance.

On some points, we may never agree. So here's my rule—if he cares the most, he wins. If something matters more to me, I win. Confronted with a stalemate, let the other win. Drop the rope and the tug-of-war ends. Choose to lose.

Bickering Will Get You Nowhere

Has pestering your spouse with complaints achieved results? Nagging works no magic here. Despite my nudges, my husband's priorities differ from mine. For instance, he sees no reason to wash dishes right after dinner. This bugs me. I prefer to work before playing.

So what? When my husband volunteers to tidy up, he cleans according to his schedule. Why bicker over a personality trait? A spouse under attack will retreat … and then you'll be the one standing in the kitchen, picking crud off the forks with your fingernail. Choose peace.

Place the Blame?

Some of us keep score. I can tell you when I was wrong (April 12, 1988) and when he was wrong (let me check my spreadsheet). I excel at finding fault and assigning blame. Such skill might satisfy my inner score-keeper, but placing blame never results in marital intimacy. A husband clobbered with "just the facts" won't respond with a loving embrace. Who would?

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May 25

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