I've always liked making arguments, and a good debate gets me all pumped up.
When my husband and I disagree, for instance, we bring out every intellectual argument in our arsenal to show why the other person is irretrievably, irreconcilably, and certifiably off his or her rocker.
At the beginning of our marriage this usually went on for several days.
Now, at times, I can argue vehemently for half an hour and then pause, shrug my shoulders, and say "I guess you're right," after Keith has made an exceptionally good point about why serving salmon once a week is not mandatory for either his or the children's health, and perhaps we should reconsider that dinner menu after all.
Though my husband and I debate, what we do not do is call names.
I don't insult him and he doesn't insult me.
Too often, I think, couples genuinely don't know how to resolve conflict, and so they resort to counterproductive ways.
When you have two people with their own views of the world living in close proximity to one another, conflict is unavoidable.
Hurt, though, can be avoided if we give thought to the best way to deal with disagreements.
I think there are three main methods of dealing with conflict.
The first looks something like this: she seethes inside over every little infraction until one day, when he tosses that pair of underwear towards the hamper but doesn't quite make it, she blows up, takes all his remaining underwear and shreds it, while informing him that he can do his own laundry from now on.
He didn't see it coming.
This is the seethe-and-then-blindside form of conflict, and hardly resolves anything.
The second form of conflict is probably the most common.
In this one, voices rise several decibels quite frequently, and insults, curses, names, and even verbal abuse are flying everywhere.
Perhaps this is so common because this is the way we've been trained to handle conflict.
We witness it in politics, when people insult one another rather than debating actual policies, because insults make better sound bites.
We see it in TV shows where 22 minutes isn't long enough to really develop the issue that they're trying to work through, so they just blow up instead.
And now we see it in relationships where we're so accustomed to labelling the other person "bad" when they don't agree with us, rather than trying to see their point of view and rationally challenging it so that we can work through a solution together.
You can yell all you want, and issue insult after insult, but is this going to get you closer to your goal? And this brings us to the third, and preferred, way of handling conflict.
We need to find a way to understand each other and engage each other in dialogue.
For that we need mutual respect and agreement that the other person does indeed have a right to feel, speak and be heard.
When we do acknowledge the others' feelings, listen to them, and then try to find a resolution that leaves everyone feeling valued, we're all better off.
It doesn't matter if you think they're wrong, or wacko, or stupid.
If you love them, show it and listen to them.
Chances are in a month you won't remember what you were even fighting about, but the fight will linger if in the process you're cruel.
Maybe listening takes a little longer, and is harder on the patience.
But it leaves a lot less collateral damage on the heart, and that's far more important in the long run.