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Permission to Argue

Permission to Argue

| May 01, 2024

Last month we talked about giving ourselves permission to be helpful to our kids and grandkids. I thought I might give us all a topic to be thinking about - should the opportunity to help arise.

Conflict surrounding finances is one of the most common areas cited by couples contemplating divorce. If we are honest, we have all either had arguments or fights over how our resources are used. And it is likely that how we struggle with financial issues is likely indicative to how successful (or unsuccessful) we are in conflict resolution in other areas of our marriage.

You may have noticed that I used both the words argue and fight in describing conflict. That was intentional. They are two very different things with different motivations and processes.  My friend Jeff (a licensed marriage and family therapist) has taught me a lot about this topic.

Arguments are a normal and expected part of all relationships. No two people see all things the same way, have the same perspective, or share the same motivation. An argument is a healthy attempt to solve problems and improve connection. The argument comes after the instigating event. The point of the argument is to repair and rebuild stronger!

Fights on the other hand are often focused on hurt and retaliation. In a fight, there is a winner and a loser. Fights often weaken our connection and trust for each other.

Couples have the option to choose which path they want to walk down after conflict happens. The most common complaint I hear from couples about their finances is that they “struggle to get or stay on the same page”. I want to share some thoughts from Jeff about how to address conflict in a way that can strengthen connections and build a more resilient “shared page”.

  • Conflicts in relationships are common. No two people can agree on everything. The purpose of conflict is to try to understand the other’s position so you can find resolution that works for both of you. You don’t have to agree with your partner’s position, but it helps a lot if you have some empathy for them.
  • If during an argument you notice that your partner is overwhelmed, slow down or even set aside the argument subject. It’s tough to solve problems when you get overwhelmed. Focus on getting to an emotional place that is calmer before you jump back into problem solving.
  • Most arguments in a relationship have strong feelings (anger, hurt, scared, etc.) associated with them. If you don’t pay attention to your own feelings and the feelings your partner has (which may be very different than yours), there’s a good chance your argument won’t go well. It’s helpful to understand both the subject you’re arguing about and the emotions associated with that argument.

Learning how to argue for repair is a great skill to learn and share with our adult kids (when the time is right). If you would like to have a resource for you or your family that focuses on how to “Do money in a relationship”, you can check out More Than a Budget on Instagram or Facebook.