Do you find yourself having more arguments than you’d like with your spouse? Maybe your arguments consist of being late for dinner, forgetting to pick up something from the store, or not getting to the game on time. Perhaps they take a more serious tone like differing parenting styles, spiritual leadership, a lack of intimacy, or where you’re spending your money. Simply put, do you find yourself more often than not, on a different page than your spouse? Here are 2 challenges to overcoming common arguments in marriage.
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. —Philippians 2:2
When I think of being on the same page as someone, these phrases come to mind: in agreement, like-minded, and being unified. I’m reminded of the passage in Philippians 2:2 (ESV) when Paul tells the church “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” The NIV reads ‘one in spirit and purpose.’” In other words, Paul is speaking of unity. This idea is NOT to be confused with uniformity, which suggests that you do and think everything alike. God did not make us that way. And chances are you were first attracted to a part of your spouse that was very much unlike you. Unity, however, refers to working together, serving each other, and considering each other’s interests. When you think about your arguments that arise from “not being on the same page,” are they in a spirit of working together, serving each other, and considering each other’s needs?
2 Challenges to Overcoming Common Arguments in Marriage
Here are two challenges to consider when it comes to being unified with your spouse. The first one is a deep one that will take thoughtful reflection and deep heart work. The second, equally important but much more tangible, is also necessary. I encourage you to think about both when it comes to your unity in your marriage.
Challenge 1: Pride
Rick Warren puts it like this: humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. In your conflict with your spouse, do you put your needs above your spouse’s? Pride is the preoccupation or concern for our self—giving ourselves the glory. If you think about some of your arguments with your spouse, do some of them spawn from a desire that your way is the “right” way most of the time?
Thinking of unity, do you seek to work WITH your spouse, not against? In conflict, we should take the mindset that we are working together against a problem, not working against each other. Do you serve your spouse (even over your children)? Do you consider your spouse’s interests in conflict? This is a discipline that takes practice, prayer, and a ton of grace. Asking simple questions like: “Why do you feel that way?” is a great start to considering your spouse in the process and then listening to the answer.
James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humility is a journey. Humility is resisting the world and our selfish nature and submitting to God. When we honor our spouse in our marriage, we honor God. When we work with our spouse, not against him or her, we honor God. When we consider our spouse’s interests and needs in our conflict, we honor God. When we don’t get our way, and we maintain a gentle spirit (which God finds of great worth—see 1 Peter 3:4), we show a great deal of trust in God. Humility requires trust in God. Do you trust God? How do you show that in humility with your spouse?
Challenge 2: Communication
Do you have a regular rhythm of communication with your spouse? Do you have a time where you often come together with your spouse to discuss important topics like schedule, challenges, joys, and prayer needs? Do you give yourself a safe space to be vulnerable and honest with each other? My husband and I established this in our own marriage about six years ago and it has transformed our relationship. Be encouraged! This was after we had been married 12 years with decent communication at best, and spotty at worst. But it has changed our relationship so much that we wrote a book about it. It’s a guide to having weekly conversations that build a deeper relationship with your spouse. 52 weeks of topics around marriage followed up by a couple of discussion questions and/or action items. You can check it out here.
Oftentimes we communicate how we were modeled communication growing up. Conflicts were loud. Or they were passive. Hurtful words were used or no words were used at all. Maybe we didn’t see any conflict between spouses so we substituted our conflict with siblings or worse, thought conflict in marriage was a sign of a bad marriage. Regardless of what we were modeled in terms of communication, we were modeled something and it has affected (good or bad) how we communicate with others, namely our spouse.
A regular rhythm of communication, when done with humility and an eagerness to learn (how to be a better spouse as well as learning about your spouse), allows us to regularly get on the same page as our spouse or stay on the same page as our spouse.
True and good communication requires the first step: humility. It requires us to admit we might be lacking in our communication skills. It requires us to listen as well as be vulnerable out loud to our spouse. It requires us to be able to admit when we are wrong (hopefully in a safe and loving environment).
How my husband and I have done this
Every Sunday night after the kids have gone to bed, we settle in and work on our communication. We begin looking at our schedule, ensuring we both know what to expect for the week ahead.
Next, we ask about our challenges and highlights of the week prior. It’s always interesting what things come up in that safe space that weren’t discussed during the week.
Once a month, we spend time talking about our finances and intimacy. Very simply, we focus on expectations, how needs were (or weren’t) met, and goals for the immediate future.
Finally, we ask for specific prayer needs and we take turns praying for each other. This has taken a lot of work and consistency. It has taken grace as we have trained our kids to stay in bed and only get us for an emergency. But it has been well worth the effort! Getting back on the same page as your spouse requires humility to consider your spouse’s needs, work together as a team, serve one another, and communicate through it all.
Grace Marriage Mission
Here’s how to get back on the same page. A willing and eager heart can reap great rewards. In order to learn something, we must admit we need to grow. Here are some questions to consider as you seek to do so in your relationship with your spouse:
- Where can you grow in your humility when it comes to your relationship with your spouse?
- Do you need to consider your spouse’s interests more?
- Do you need to focus on working together?
- Do you need to seek to serve your spouse more?
Jenny Brown is co-author of The Marriage Experience: Weekly Conversation Starters to Build the Relationship You Desire.