Head Games

I should have known better. But honestly, it sounded pretty reasonable at the time, mostly because this friend usually offered sound advice. I was working through a disagreement with my wife, Jean , and though I didn’t want to seem heavy-handed, I was hoping Jean would do things my way. I won’t go into the details other than to say it involved a purchase for our sons and an already stressed budget.

When I mentioned the issue to a friend, he suggested I say, “It’s your decision, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you.” His view: This simple sentence would let my wife know exactly how I thought she should proceed, but make it look like I was leaving the ball in her court. “If you put it that way,” my friend said, “she’ll agree with you. Just watch.”

So I tried his approach the next time the subject came up. The outcome? Two different interpretations of one conversation. I suppose I should have seen it coming.

What I mostly intended to say: “I wouldn’t do it.”

What Jean mostly heard: “It’s your decision.”

So, the item arrived, and I was left to frown over the numbers on the receipt and wonder why we play these little head games with our spouses. Yes, disagreements happen. Even verbal fights happen. It’s all part of marriage. But why had I felt the need to try to, well . . . trick the woman I love to win this particular disagreement?

I wonder how often I cross the line in our disagreements, crafting tight arguments and adapting language that is less persuasion than manipulation. If I’m trying to control my wife, I’m not encouraging trust and vulnerability. If my marriage is really going to grow — and if I truly value my wife’s opinions — these little, strategic tricks and verbal tactics must be off the table.

Guys, we can resolve disagreements a lot more quickly, and with better results, if we see our wives not as opponents to be outplayed, but as teammates. Let’s be men who can disagree, discuss — and then move on.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family broadcast. His daily column is available at JimDalyblog.com.

This article appeared in the summer 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2013. ThrivingFamily.com.