Argue Without Being Argumentative

This conveys your capacity to be civil and courteous even if you have a different point of view.

Willie and Elaine Oliver
Argue Without Being Argumentative

My husband is opinionated and stubborn. He has an opinion about everything, and he believes he is always right. After 12 years of marriage I am increasingly tired of it. I often argue back with all my logic and savvy to no avail. I feel that this model of communication is not workable, and that our marriage will not survive much longer if it continues.

Communicating well in marriage is like trying to heat a cold room in winter.

To have a warm room—or for that matter an inviting home—you can make sure all the windows are shut, the walls are insulated, the roof is adequate, and that every crack in the walls or spaces under doors keeps out the cold. Of course, a quicker way to make the room/house warm is to turn up the thermostat.

Your marriage relationship is like a cold room or a house that needs to be kept warm during the winter. While both you and your husband will do well to try to repair all the things—at least most of the things—that are wrong with your marriage to make it a more inviting and livable environment, the quickest way to make your marriage more appealing is to turn up the thermostat.

What do we mean? We’re glad you asked! Choose to be kinder, more patient, more generous, less critical, less judgmental, less nitpicking, less irritated when relating to your spouse.

Rather than fighting back with better and stronger arguments, quit contesting his points and listen empathically as you would to someone you’ve just met. What would that look like?

You know how to speak with people you don’t know well. You often paraphrase what they say to make sure you heard them well, and give them an opportunity to explain more so that they communicate more clearly.

Let’s take a controversial topic such as global warming as an example. Practice responding in a winsome way, even if you have very strong feelings about this issue. If the person says, “I believe global warming is a hoax,” rather than responding, “Are you crazy? There is unambiguous scientific evidence to the contrary,” you may simply respond: “I hear you say you don’t believe all the talk about global warming.” This reply to the person’s statement conveys that you heard them, and that you are trying to understand, instead of starting a fight that will make you both want to quit talking to each other.

This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with the other person’s ideas, but it conveys your capacity to be civil and courteous even if you have a different point of view.

The more you practice this simple communication skill with your husband, the greater your chances of making him feel validated and creating an affable environment in your marriage. The aim is to keep the space of your marriage warm. Once this becomes the norm in your relationship, you will create an environment in which you can also share your opinions and ideas without being refuted at every turn.

We encourage you to practice these words of Scripture: “Pursue peace with all people [especially your husband], and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Elaine Oliver, MA, LGPC, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at or

Willie and Elaine Oliver