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How Do You Argue With Your Spouse?

When Glen and Brenda disagree and argue, their interaction is predictable. He points his finger at her. She cowers in silence. It is not unusual for victims of childhood sexual abuse to be silent in conflict. But a predictable style of arguing is typical of everyone, whether or not there is abuse in their background. Every husband and wife have a default style of interaction in conflict.

A predictable style of arguing is typical of everyone.

In their book, Seven Desires, Mark and Debbie Laaser identify four different styles or “stances” as they call them for dealing with unfulfilled desires. All of us adopt one of four stances when we have conflict over unfulfilled desires in our relationships, especially a marriage relationship.

 

All of us adopt one of four stances when we have conflict over
unfulfilled desires in our relationships, especially a marriage relationship.

I will list and describe each of the four stances, or styles. As you read, picture yourself in conflict and determine which style is the one you most often adopt. Hint: you may not like what you see. If you are brave, then share these four styles with your spouse and ask what style they most often see in you. But do not argue with their answer. Remember, you asked for what they see.

Here are the four styles as outlined in Seven Desires: Pleaser, Blamer, Reasonable, and the Irrelevant. I recommend that you purchase the book for more information regarding desires.

  1. The Pleaser

The Pleaser appears to be a very nice person and often is. A pleaser is kind and willing to serve, almost at any cost to themselves. Pleasers will bury their own needs in their all-out-effort to please or serve the other person.

The Pleaser style of coping in conflict is driven by a strong desire for acceptance and belonging. The Pleaser makes all kinds of sacrifice so that others don’t become angry with them. Their fear is that their partner might leave them. The adopted style of a Pleaser is a form of self-protection that lives in fear of disappointing and being abandoned physically or emotionally by the other.

Dominant and controlling personalities are a dangerous combination for a Pleaser. The controller makes demands and the Pleaser appeases the controller. However, if we could x-ray motives, we would see that the Pleaser is a controller too. The Pleaser controls the other by pleasing so that they do not become angry or leave.

The adopted style of a Pleaser is a form of
self-protection that lives in fear . . .

  1. The Blamer

Whereas the Pleaser appears to be very nice but has a hidden agenda to control, the Blamer’s attempt to be in control during conflict is obvious for all to see and hear. If the Blamer isn’t pointing a finger at the other person, they are certainly pointing their blame and words at the other. A Blamer judgmentally sees the fault in others and often communicates their blame in an angry tone.

The combination of a Blamer and a Pleaser is a “Perfect Storm” as depicted in Glen and Brenda. Blamers are always right in their own minds and Pleasers convince themselves that the Blamer must be right. Blamers see others as being responsible and take no responsibility themselves. Pleasers see themselves as always responsible for the problem.

Once Blamers win, they can appear nice. But their “nice” is a controlling manipulation to keep the other person quiet and submissive.

Blamers see others as being responsible and take no responsibility themselves.

Brenda is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The threats made by her perpetrator kept her silent for decades until she finally disclosed her abuse. When she met Glen, he seemed kind. She liked his “take charge” personality. She was accustomed to coming under the control of others but did not realize how detrimental that characteristic could be. In her conflicts with Glen, she always cowered.

  1. The Reasonable

The Reasonable can appear kind and thoughtful. Rather than speaking in a harsh tone like the Blamers, Reasonables can speak softly and are often very articulate. Their words are carefully chosen. While a Blamer points their finger, the Reasonable stands, almost gazing off somewhere, as though in deep thought.

Though the Reasonable may appear thoughtful and even concerned for others, they do not take sufficient time to listen to and understand others. The Reasonable’s goal is to convince others of what they are so convinced of themselves; that they are undeniably right!

The Reasonable argues not with blame or harsh words, but with their endless and ever-developing list of reasons and examples.

The Reasonable’s goal is to convince others of what they are so
convinced of themselves; that they are undeniably right!

While the Blamer belittles through accusation and the Pleaser manipulates through control, the Reasonable demeans the other by their self-appointed role as the one who is always right. The Reasonable believes that others just don’t know enough or are not smart enough.

By the way, it is extremely difficult to connect emotionally with Reasonables. Reasonables engage with their thinking while being oblivious to their feelings, and other’s feelings.

  1. The Irrelevant

The Irrelevant’s style can be summed up in one word: “Whatever!” You might also see them rolling their eyes and throwing their arms up in the air.

The bottom line is that Irrelevants just don’t care. Whereas the Reasonable is aiming to convince, the Irrelevant is looking to escape. If they do actually walk away, they do so without any true understanding of themselves or the other, and with unfulfilled desires (read about it more in Seven Desires).

The Irrelevant’s style can be summed up in one word: “Whatever!”

Obviously, it is difficult to connect either mentally or emotionally with the Irrelevant because they have checked-out. By avoiding conflict, they sabotage connection with anyone.

Summary

All of us adopt one of four stances when dealing with conflict over unfulfilled desires in our relationships, especially a marriage relationship. What is your adopted style of arguing? How do you argue with your spouse? Go ahead! Be brave! Ask your spouse for what they see as your adopted style. Then, rather than arguing, take time to learn from it.

Here are some matters to consider:

  • Do you like seeing yourself mirror with the style you typically adopt?
  • What impact does your style have on your spouse?
  • What impact does her style have on you?
  • Are your styles working to resolve your unfulfilled desires? What does your spouse think?
  • Are you willing to explore a different way of resolving unfulfilled desires?

Watch for my next blog. We’ll explore a different way of interaction that can bring greater satisfaction of desires in your marriage.

 

 

Reference Used in this Blog:

Laaser, M. & Laaser, D. (2013). Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan.

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