The Importance of Win-Win Arguments in Your Marriage Relationship

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH

You are having that same argument about money again. One person believes the money needs to be spent and the other person believes the money should be saved. Sometimes the argument is spoken out loud and sometimes the argument is done silently, nonetheless the same argument is replayed over and over. If the spender gets their way then they are happy to have won this round, if the saver gets their way then they are happy to have won. In both cases the opposing spouse often feels like the loser of the argument desperately trying to figure out how to win the next round.

Everyone falls into this trap sometime; maybe the issue is manifested differently but the pattern is the same. The problem is not the issue per say, but rather the outcome. There are three possible outcomes to any argument: win-lose, lose-lose and win-win. However, in a marriage only two of the three outcomes are really possible.

Lose-Lose. In lose-lose outcomes, both spouses walk away feeling as if nothing was resolved and words were unnecessarily spoken. The argument may have escalated beyond the issue into past behavior, words, and/or feelings or additional unrelated topics may have entered the argument. Lose-Lose outcomes occur when both sides lose track of the topic and begin the finger pointing game. The reality is that both of you are on the same team in a marriage so every lose-lose argument becomes destructive rather than constructive.

Win-Lose. In win-lose outcomes, if one of you feels like they have lost, then in actuality both of you have lost because a marriage is a team of two people. One spouse trying to get the upper hand of the other is like pampering your right hand over your left. Even if one hand does more work than the other, both are equally important while serving separate functions. So when one spouse walks away from the argument feeling like they have not been heard, there is no real agreement and the win-lose outcome becomes a lose-lose outcome.

Win-Win. In win-win outcomes, both spouses feel heard, feel safe, feel valued, and feel respected. This is by far the most time consuming outcome of the three but it is also the most rewarding and will strengthen your marriage in the process. As the win-win concept becomes a goal in your arguments, you will find that it takes less and less work to reach the outcome because you have already laid out the ground work for mutual understanding. Notice that the win-win outcome is not about who is right but rather about each of you feels at the end. One spouse maybe right all along but how they value the other spouse’s opinion or perspective makes all the difference.

As a side note, submission in a marriage is not about winning or losing in an argument, rather it is a gift of trust given from the heart just as loving unconditionally is a gift given from the heart. A person demanding submission or love misses out on the true value of the gift just like a child demanding a present misses out on the joy of receiving something unexpected. Once demanded, it does not satisfy quite like the unexpected gift.

Striving for win-win outcomes in your arguments is a struggle but in the end it is worth the effort. So the next time you are tempted to end the argument by railroading over your spouse, stop and consider the value of your team. If your marriage is important to you, then the extra time to make it work is well worth it.


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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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