What’s Behind the Argument?

Even as certified Pre-Marital Counselors, Tappy and I still have our arguments. In fact, some of the most heated arguments  have even happened when we were preparing to teach a Marriage class.

It was a weeknight. We had both gotten home from a full days work to sit down at the table and prepare the lesson for the following Saturday night class.

As we went through the material we would plan illustrations to bring the material to life, supplement from other studies we’ve done to offer more practical advise, and we were also creating a power point to be visually engaging for our students.

Power Points are important, but I felt that lesson-planning was becoming very inefficient by the constant pauses to change bullet points, fonts, and colors. After a while my frustration started to come out in my tone, and small remarks under my breath about how I wish Tap would stop working on the power point.

Before I knew it the frustration had escalated, and Tappy responded by slamming the laptop shut and exclaiming, “Fine, we won’t have a powerpoint.”

Then I rebutted, “Fine, and you can teach this class alone!”

What's Behind the Argument

During the whole evening I was begging him to work on the power point later, I argued that it wasn’t as important as the lesson, and how inefficient it seemed to be multi-tasking. I was talking about the external circumstances. The surface issue was I didn’t want to work on the power point while we lesson planned.

This caused Tap to argue the importance of the power point, how it helped us stay on track during our lesson, and how it made more sense to make it as we went through the lesson rather than after. The surface issue was that he wanted to do the power point simultaneously.

When we stay in the surface issues we offer ZERO sympathy. We don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Instead we are out to win the argument. 

After the blow up, we cooled down, and we wisened up. We remembered that all heated arguments aren’t about the surface issues, but something deeper.

Tap was probably the one to break the ice, by stating how he felt. “I feel unappreciated when you want me to stop working on the power point, because I feel that my contribution to the lesson isn’t important to you.”

My husband feels unappreciated. AAACK! That’s not what I want. Pause, Rewind. Now I’m slowing down to understand and empathize. I had the opportunity to say, “No, I love the power points you make, and I see how they help the class follow along and engage!” Trying to undue all the harm I’ve done, and shine light on all the positives I see and to show the appreciation he needed.

Then I shared my under-the-surface-feelings, “I feel disrespected when you would stop me in the middle of my sentences or thoughts to fix the power point, because I didn’t feel like you were concentrating on the lesson plan and our time was being wasted.”

That’s when he stepped into my shoes and saw how I was frustrated to watch him work on something I couldn’t help him with, and he began to see that his attention did appear to be pulled in two directions.

Surface issue: To work on the Power Point or Not to work on the Power Point

REAL issue: Feeling Unappreciated & Feeling Disrespected


Focusing on our feelings keeps the argument more humane and it opens us up to be more receptive of our partner’s point of view. Using an XYZ statement is a great way to express your feelings as well as help you identify your feelings in the middle of an argument. Here is an XYZ statement:

I feel  ___X___, when  ___Y___, because ___Z___.”

If you scroll back up, you can see how Tappy and I used this exact framework to calm our argument down.


What are ways you turn a fight around?

Challenge: Next argument, try to use an XYZ statement and tell us how it goes.


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