Disagreement Or Verbal Abuse?

“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest — never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partnership.” — Ann Landers.

I think disagreements can be healthy. Disagreements done right help us work through issues that need to be resolved. We don’t always think there’s something that needs to be “fixed” until we find ourselves in the midst of a war of words that gets a little too heated. Even then, we may not recognize that our very anger signals a problem within ourselves.

It takes two to have a war of words. Someone starts it, someone else keeps it going. At any point, either person can stop participating and the “war” will end. In many marriages, both people are so strong-willed that neither is willing to just walk away when an argument gets out of hand. Neither wants to let the other one “win”.

In contests, tournaments, and battles it is the one who quits first who loses. The same thinking applies to word battles. No one wants to be the one who quits first. No one wants to be the “loser.” Disagreements aren’t contests or wars. They are differing opinions about the same subject. We are all entitled to have and express our opinions as long as that expression does not turn into a war of words.

Being disciplined enough to step away when a disagreement turns mean takes a strong person, not a weak one. You may have a verbally abusive spouse who baits you into arguments. When you respond, you enable him or her to continue the abuse. It takes strength to stop being an enabler once you recognize the pattern.

No argument can continue when only one person is involved. Whether it requires you to count to one hundred before replying or walking into another room or hanging up the phone or turning off your computer for a few hours, the strength is in not saying what’s on your mind in the heat of anger.