Thursday, August 20, 2015

Argument-Free Relationships. Really?

The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You've Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have

Is this possible? An argument-free relationship?
I've personally thought that it could happen, and in this book Fawn Weaver explains why she thinks so to.

First, a definition is necessary. Argument-free does not mean disagreement-free. It does not mean a relationship without differences of opinion, conflicts of interest, and personal preferences that tend to clash. (You'd have to marry a programmed robot to achieve this! And Fawn has no interest is being a robot, or wedding one.) It means you handle your disagreements without argument. 
That blows your mind, don't it? So simple. 

(Let's define argument as an exchange of words, designed to cut somebody up and run them down, said in anger, ostensibly revolving around an issue that needs dealing with. From what I know, these exchanges aren't problem-solving study sessions. Nope, they're torture to live with and usually get swept under the rug until they happen again over some other issue.) 

She has a 230 page book, formed around a 28 day challenge, that all boils down to the most basic of concepts. 

First, unless it's a full-on emergency, choose a sensible time to discuss a problem. Why court a fight by bringing up inflammatory things when everyone's out of patience and suffering from low blood sugar? 
And if there is a real problem, find a way to solve it together. Resolve to speak to that end- uncovering a solution.
If there's no resolution on the horizon, then find a way to bear the trouble together.  
(Wait- what if you're the only one who sees the problem? Yep. That's always a challenge. Persistent, honest communication about why you're so troubled may bring the other person to a place of concern over the issue as well.) 

Focus on your original emotion- what lies deeper than the anger? Anger is easy, because it comes with a surge of power and justification, and the force of it can beat somebody into responding. Vulnerability is not easy. When you want to argue, and choose to find your original emotion instead, you're choosing to open a hurting heart up and explain yourself. That takes courage, but it can foster trust.

One idea that I really liked was found in the "Get a clue, get a cue" section. The clue comes from deciding to evaluate yourself before you diagnose your partner. "There's tension here- am I contributing to it, even if I'm in the right?" That's strong medicine to take, whether you're married or not! 
The cue section is more fun. Fawn says that many couples she's interviewed have developed cues over the years- when they recognize their spouse becoming nervous or upset, they signal to them subtly. It's a secret code that says "I can tell there's something wrong- let me help. Let's talk this out." 
Personally, I've done this with my siblings over the years. I imagine it would be useful in a marriage.

Remember- if this relationship is a marriage, then you've got a lifetime to work this stuff out. A bad moment is a moment, and it can get better. Ultimately, the relationship is what matters. How can you best keep that going strong amid stupidity and struggle? 
Presume innocence when you go into a disagreement. They may not have intended to misunderstand you/neglect you/set you off. If you're assuming the best in them, you'll be less likely to attack and more likely to seek understanding.

Cultivate gratitude. You chose this person. Why? It's possible those wonderful qualities are still there, and it's your vision that's changed. Can you recover the ability to see them through the eyes of love? Not delusion- just a gracious acceptance that finds the best amid the flaws.

I came away from this book with a renewed desire to replace arguing, unproductive unkindness, and manipulative shunning with discussion, grace, and honest explanations of why I feel the way I do. Will it always "work"- always elicit the perfect response? Hell no. Will trying it grow me as a person? Probably yes. 

And if Fawn wants to reignite a generation's hope for good marriages, then this book will further that goal. Who would want to lock themselves into a decades-long argument? Nobody. But if we can rescue marriage from the gladiator pit, and replace fights with partnership through life's problems, maybe marriage can earn high esteem again. 

I thank Thomas Nelson for providing me with a review copy through BookLook. 

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