Fawn begins with the startling premise that, contrary to popular opinion, conflict in marriage is not necessary or inevitable. Then she leads readers on a day-by-day journey toward a more peaceful and supportive relationship. Chapter by brief chapter, she offers fresh perspectives and practical strategies for communicating effectively, building understanding, and defusing anger while at the same time nurturing honesty, vulnerability, and mutual support.
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The Argument-Free Marriage
28 Days to Creating the Marriage You've Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have
By FAWN WEAVER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Fawn E. Weaver
All rights reserved.
The Plan For A Harmonious Marriage
If this driveway could speak, it would tell of the day Tim and Renee stood at the top of the winding pavement and said good-bye to each other. Tim helped lift the last of Renee's bags into her car as tears streamed down their faces.
They'd been married for less than a year. Their fairy-tale wedding had been the talk of the town. Guests at the posh Beverly Hills reception spent the evening toasting the dashing groom and his young bride in a ballroom that had seen its share of weddings come and go. And nearly as fast as the ceremony, in the blink of an eye, the marriage was over. Kaput.
Tim and Renee had both determined the marriage wasn't worth all the arguing, fighting, and distrust that had resulted from their actions. They'd gone against the advice of friends and family in deciding to be married, and shortly after the ceremony they concluded everyone else was right.
The wedding had been beautiful. The marriage, not so much.
The Newlywed Myth
I don't know of one couple who married hoping they would one day divorce. Do you?
Yet we've heard for decades that the divorce rate in the United States is approximately 50 percent. And although that number has been disputed for just about as long as it's been stated, what we know is roughly one out of every two couples who pledge, "For better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health," don't keep that vow to each other.
What most people don't realize is that the highest percentage of marriages that dissolve end within the first five years. Worldwide, divorces peak in the fourth year.
As it turns out, the so-called newlywed years are a total farce. Couples are told the first years will be the easiest, so they go into marriage with that expectation in mind. And when difficulties come much earlier than anticipated, many think, If these are the easy years, then I'm not sticking around for the tough ones! They don't stop to consider that the coming together of two hearts, two souls, and two independent spirits is a lifelong work, not something to be completed in a matter of months.
Two people fell in love based on their similarities, only to determine later that their differences were insurmountable. If only they knew, while repeating their vows, that sometimes the "worse" happens before the "better." In fact, for married couples who make it through their first four years, the divorce rate begins to decrease after their five-year anniversary and then dips significantly after the tenth year of marriage.
Marriage is risky business, but the rewards are worth the risk. In 1870, in a letter to Queen Victoria's fourth daughter upon the announcement of her engagement, British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote, "There is no greater risk than matrimony. But there is nothing happier than a happy marriage."
Disraeli pinpointed why we continue to place bets on this horse that seems to only have a fifty-fifty chance of winning. We hope to fall on the side of marriages that are a good investment and, with maturity and growth, reap favorable returns.
At the heart of it all, we are dreamers. Even the most pessimistic or pragmatic person will probably concede that it takes some level of faith and an ability to dream to believe in a romance and love that can last a lifetime. Yet marriages like that begin each and every day, and many of them last fifty, sixty, or even seventy glorious years, ending not through divorce but through the passing of a spouse.
Why did You Choose Your Spouse?
For the past eleven years, I've had the great pleasure of being a part of something that is rarely seen on television, in the movies, or in the media overall: a happy marriage. I pinch myself daily that I wake up next to my favorite person on earth. Truly. And since founding an online club for married women in 2010, I've had the fortune of interacting with millions of women who feel the same way I do about their spouses.
Whatever caused you to fall in love and say "I do" is probably what also motivated you to read this book. You and I still believe in the power of love and the joy and peace marriage has to offer if we'll just put in the effort to make it great.
Some of you might say, "But you don't know my spouse. Maybe your husband is not as frustrating as mine." I will tell you the same thing my mother used to tell women who complained to her about their mates: "I don't know your husband, and he may be as irrational as you claim. But what I do know is you had a choice. And you chose him."
What made you choose your spouse? Out of the seven billion people in the world, what was so special about him or her that caused you to forsake all others? Let's begin here. And for two minutes, let's pause here. I urge you to think about this question as you begin this challenge, as it will guide you to a more fulfilling journey.
Unfortunately, many people have chosen a poor mate. That is indeed a challenge. But there is hope. If your spouse is willing to take this twenty-eight-day challenge with you and is not abusive physically or emotionally (see my note about this in the introduction), I believe by the end of day twenty-eight, your relationship will be stronger, more loving, and harmonious.
The Road To Divorce is Paved with Arguments
If you've ever been around a couple contemplating divorce, you probably know three of the top reasons cited for dissolutions: poor communication, growing apart, and stress caused by financial difficulties. Narrowing down the top reasons for divorce statistically yields some interesting results. For every study released claiming to know the "top three reasons for divorce," another is released with different findings. What we know for certain is the vast majority of divorces are preceded by years of arguing.
No one gets married hoping one day the marriage will fall apart (at least no one I've ever met). But life happens, and those small things many spouses were once willing to overlook—quirks, idiosyncrasies, imperfections, failures—all of a sudden become the main focus. A world full of broken, jaded, and hardened hearts is a dangerous world to live in. Life in a place where broken homes are the majority is a disheartening existence. But you can help change that. You already have by picking up this book and taking up this twenty-eight-day challenge.
No one truly knows how a couple progresses from seemingly unimportant arguments to divorce court, but what we do know is one often leads to another. In most cases it is not the disagreements themselves but rather how we handle and resolve such conflicts that determine the ultimate outcome.
The plan for an argument-free marriage is simple: stop the arguments, and then restore, revive, and reenergize the intimacy in your relationship. As you and your spouse learn how to implement that plan through this twenty-eight-day challenge, you will realize that the answer to the question, How in the world do two people with different thoughts, beliefs, and personalities coexist and not argue? is simpler than you may think.
Day One Challenge Questions
1. What made you choose your spouse? Jot down a few of your spouse's characteristics that were appealing to you.
2. Describe your "newlywed years" of marriage. In what ways did your marriage meet your expectations in those early years? In what ways was your new marriage different from how you had imagined it would be?
3. How would your relationship with your spouse be different if you didn't argue? How would an argument-free marriage affect your children? Your family? Your own life? Be specific.CHAPTER 2
What Most Arguments Are Really About
AT The Time I began writing this book, I was the general manager of a bustling hotel, and Keith was a senior executive of a Fortune 500 company. Every day when we came home we were absolutely pooped. We ended our days with little to no energy, and by the time we walked through the door of our home, we just wanted to head to bed and go right to sleep. All our vigor had been drained. But at the sight of each other, the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders, our energy reappeared, and we took a deep breath. Ahhh ... life is good.
Several years into our marriage we learned that most of our married friends have the opposite reaction. After a long and tiring day, they come home and are on edge. They are easily irritated, and the simplest thing can set off an argument that will last an hour, a day, and in some cases up to a week. Keith and I had never really considered the differences between these reactions and ours until a reporter from the Los Angeles Times conducted an interview with me.
The reporter was writing an article about an online club I founded called the Happy Wives Club (HappyWivesClub.com). I was fed up with all the cynicism about marriage being played out on the big screen, on television, and in magazines, and I'd decided to do something about it. My interview with the Times lasted two hours and probed my life, marriage, husband, and viewpoints on a vast range of marriage-related topics, including the best way to resolve an argument.
The seasoned journalist looked baffled when I shared that Keith and I had never had an argument. Her expression conveyed disbelief. And who could fault her? Then came the questions. It was her reaction—and the reaction of those who have responded to our argument-free marriage with, "Well, what do you consider to be an argument?"—that underscored my desire to write this book.
What Is an Argument?
Maybe the most helpful thing as you begin your journey to an argument-free marriage is to first understand what I define as an argument. The definition I most often use is the same one that will appear at the top of your screen if you type the term into Google: "an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one."
It is the latter portion of that definition that I truly believe can be avoided. Having a "heated or angry" exchange is the opposite of sharing your opposing views with each other in a way that allows you to have a meaningful discussion that yields positive results (even if the result is to agree to disagree, something Keith and I have done many times over the years). The best description I've seen of the differences between an argument and a discussion was posted by William Jones on the Good Enough Mother site and republished on my own site:
1. A discussion = People take turns really listening to each other.
2. An argument = Everyone's talking; nobody's listening.
3. A discussion = Two people against a problem.
4. An argument = Two people against each other.
5. A discussion = Is about the situation at hand.
6. An argument = Is seldom actually about the thing being argued over.
7. A discussion = Is about an important issue.
8. An argument = Is seldom about anything except who's right and who's wrong.
9. A discussion = There are millions of good reasons to have one.
10. An argument = There is NO good reason to have one.
11. A discussion = Can solve a problem.
12. An argument = Never really solves anything.
13. A discussion = Ends when people agree on a solution.
14. An argument = Doesn't end; it just waits to be brought up in the next argument.
15. A discussion = The people who solve the problem win.
16. An argument = Nobody wins.
When an argument is elevated to finger-pointing, throwing things, or otherwise using anything other than your words, I consider that a fight. I include this statement because I've seen so much about the difference between an argument and a fight in marriage that I wanted to clarify how I view both. I also define a fight the same way Google does: "a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons." In many instances, a conflict does not come to actual blows, but the words exchanged are elevated to such a hurtful nature that it's hard to distinguish between an argument and a fight.
Lasting Consequences of Arguments
Driving down the 405 freeway not long ago, I experienced what is common on the streets and highways of Los Angeles: midday traffic. But I also had a new experience, one I will not soon forget. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large, black Mercedes with a young girl sitting to the far-right side of the backseat. She caught my eye because she sat slouched with her head down, almost as if she wished she could simply disappear. A black jacket hood covered most of her face, although it was not cold outside.
As I pulled up a little more, I could see why this girl was attempting to fade into the background. A couple, presumably her parents, sat in the front seat. Dad was behind the wheel while Mom sat in the passenger seat, yelling and waving her index finger—at Dad. Both took turns yelling and pointing at each other. And with every passing second, I watched the girl shrink away more and more.
I was heartbroken for the little girl. I wanted to pull up beside their car, roll down my window, and plead with her parents, "Can't you figure out a better way to communicate in front of your daughter? Do you have any idea what your argument is doing to her?" I wished I could have given the girl some words of comfort. But they passed me before I could even get close enough to smile at her.
My heart was saddened. I felt for the little girl as I watched her car drive away. Later that day I continued to think about her. I wondered if her parents argued like that in front of her all the time or if it was just an off day for them. Then I imagined what it must feel like to be a child living with parents who constantly choose to use harsh, angry words with each other. (Sadly, some of you reading this don't have to imagine that because you lived through it.) I pictured the tears she must cry in the dark of night when no one is around. I thought of the poor communication skills she was learning that would undoubtedly find their way into her classroom, friendships, and, later in life, her workplace and possibly her own marriage.
I truly believe that fighting and arguments may be helpful in war or in the courtroom, but not in the home. They may help your cause when you are opposing the person on the other side. But not when you are a team. And in marriage, you are a team. For this reason I will not waver on this belief: a marriage can be full of passion, with spouses completely honest and transparent with each other, and not involve arguing. I believe this because when it comes to arguments in marriage, they very rarely help. But they consistently and almost always hurt.
What Causes Arguments?
When you think about it, what really causes arguments? (I'm talking about arguments here, not disagreements.) The cause of most arguments boils down to one thing: our own self-interests. They come from our self-seeking desires that battle within us. We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it, period. I know my next statement might elicit protests, but arguments are never really about what our spouses did or said. They stem from our own expectations of what our spouses should have done or could have said instead.
It is human nature to think, It's all about me. Once a month I get together with two of my closest girlfriends and have what we call our "ladies' night." Our hubbies get out of Dodge as we fill the house with a nice dose of estrogen. Recently we finished reading the book It's Not About Me by Max Lucado. Writing about human nature, Lucado says,
Self-promotion. Self-preservation. Self-centeredness. It's all about me!
They all told us it was, didn't they? Weren't we urged to look out for number one? Find our place in the sun? Make a name for ourselves? We thought self-celebration would make us happy. ...
But what chaos this philosophy creates. What if a symphony orchestra followed such an approach? Can you imagine an orchestra with an "It's all about me" outlook? Each artist clamoring for self-expression. Tubas blasting nonstop. Percussionists pounding to get attention. The cellist shoving the flutist out of the center-stage chair. The trumpeter standing atop the conductor's stool tooting his horn. Sheet music disregarded. Conductor ignored. What do you have but an endless tune-up session!
Isn't this the way we go through life? Believing everything is about us? Believing our spouses are here solely to take care of us and make us happy? In a relationship where we should be making beautiful music together, we are banging away on our drums, demanding to be heard, demanding to be right.
Ego. Selfishness. The desire to be right. Aren't these really, truly the root of most arguments and quarrels in marriage? Add to these factors our lack of patience and our need for instant gratification. We need an answer now! We deserve a response now! Me! Me! Me!
Excerpted from The Argument-Free Marriage by FAWN WEAVER. Copyright © 2015 Fawn E. Weaver. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Gary Chapman, Ph.D ix
Can You Really Create an Argument-Free Marriage? 1
Day 1 The Plan for a Harmonious Marriage 11
Day 2 What Most Arguments Are Really About 17
Day 3 Throw Out Your Plan B 27
Day 4 Stop Acceleration Before It Starts 35
Day 5 Pay Attention to the Original Emotion 43
Day 6 Timing Is Everything 51
Day 7 Rules of Engagement (by Keith Weaver) 59
Day 8 Dream a New Dream 67
Day 9 Define Your Own Family Values 75
Day 10 Take the Road Already Traveled 83
Day 11 Start a Daily Ritual 91
Day 12 Embrace a Day of Rest 99
Day 13 The Only List That Matters 107
Day 14 Release Your Expectations of Perfection 115
Day 15 Speak Through a Filter 125
Day 16 Get a Clue (Then a Cue) 133
Day 17 Five Words of Prevention 141
Day 18 Keep a Scoreless Marriage 149
Day 19 Simplify Your Life 159
Day 20 Honor Your Family 165
Day 21 Begin with the End in Mind 173
Day 22 The Number One Reason for Strife 181
Day 23 The Comparison Trap 189
Day 24 Follow the 10/90 Rule 197
Day 25 More Money, Less Stuff 205
Day 26 Redefine the American Dream 213
Day 27 Rome Wasn't Built in a Day 221
Day 28 Make the Best Choice 231
About the Author 243