One of the Stupidest Things I Did in 44 Years of Marriage


I’ve already changed the title of this article once.

It was originally “The Stupidest Thing I Did in 44 Years of Marriage.” Then I started thinking of so many dumb things I have done in my married life. I couldn’t be certain which one of the 537 acts of stupidity should be number one. They are all up there.

This issue, though, is near the top, if not the top.

What is that stupid thing I did in marriage? To be clear, I have not done this act of stupidity one time, but many times. Too many times. You would think I would learn by now. The stupid act? I tried to win arguments with my wife.

Don’t ask me how many arguments I incited. That’s not the number one point. The big issue is that I tried to win the arguments. So, why is that so stupid? Let me cite but a few reasons.

1. It makes my wife an object of competition instead of adoration. I have a competitive spirit. Okay, I have a very competitive spirit. But God did not give me my wife to compete with her. He gave me my wife to complement her. When I insist on winning a marital argument, I am saying that my ego is more important than my marriage.

2. Trying to win can bring out the worst in me. It exacerbates my anger. It augments my selfishness. It fulfills the “for better or worse” marriage clause, except it leaves out “better.” I am neither a good nor godly man when I try to win a marital argument.

3. I do not listen when I’m trying to win. I devalue my wife by not really listening to her perspective when I try to win arguments. I am more focused on my next line of argumentation rather than trying to hear her view. My actions communicate clearly to my wife that she is not worth the time to give her my full attention.

4. Most marital arguments are never resolved by rationalization. I know you’ve seen those incessant arguments on social media, particularly Facebook. Many people are convinced that their rational thought pattern will win the day. I’ve never seen it happen. When I try to win an argument with my wife, I see the solution as one in my head instead of one in her heart. Instead of winning her, I want to win the moment for myself.

5. My wife is right more times than I am. That’s one of the stupidest reasons for me to try to win the argument. Can I really win when I am wrong? She is wiser and more godly than I am. Why should I think for a moment I really have something to lord over her?

Okay, it may not be the stupidest thing I’ve done in 44 years of marriage. But it sure is one of the stupidest.

And here is the sad part. Every time I come away from an argument convinced I have the upper hand, I have lost already. I have told my wife that my ego, my selfishness, and my desires are more important than she is.

And if that’s not stupid, I don’t know what is.

Posted on August 16, 2021

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • To those who found this lacking try this. Take the article out of the marital context (while that is where Thom wrote it) and place it in a more general context.

    1. It makes the one I am in disagreement an object of competition instead of co-equal in the eyes of God.
    2. Trying to win can bring out the worst in me.
    3. I do not listen when I’m trying to win.
    4. Most interpersonal arguments are never resolved by rationalization.
    5. The other person may be right often than I am.

    These are keys things to remember in all interpersonal relationships. Competition creates “winners and losers” and often creates an unnecessary dichotomy. This leads to the appearance of the “zero-sum-game” – there are only two options, right and wrong, and if I am right then you are wrong and vice versa.

    The reality of life is there are a lot of shades of gray. One does not create community by pitting one against the other. Community is created through communication and improved understanding. Even in God’s economy the fundamental rules are simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. (Even before that it was simpler: let me be your God and walk humbly before me.) Love in God’s economy is not emotion, it is commitment to community.

  • Denise O'Neal says on

    As a Christian wife of 33 years, I find this article less than satisfying. And I’m not coming from the camp of I should always submit to my husband and God is always giving him the answers for our family point of view. No, I don’t want my husband to argue just to win, and to run me over with his smarter than me with words way. That hurts and is ugly. But I also don’t want him to be a “yes dear”, “whatever you say” man. That is just as frustrating and very lonely place to be as a wife. And I would agree, not Biblical. I’m not supposed to be calling all the shots. What I do desire is respectful conversation between the two of us that considers together all angles, and works together to see good decisions or changes that are needed, etc. I love the invitation to pray together about decisions that need to be made, or even to pray about our conflicts and to seek better understanding and a deeper level of love between us. Your article leaves a lot of room for a shallow relationship instead of a marriage growing deeper. Maybe you have written elsewhere about how to love your wife in deeper relational ways, but I just saw this one article, and it left me lacking.

    • Jennifer says on

      Same…it seems pretty odd and shallow. I haven’t yet had a fight/argument with my husband, but over our five years of marriage we regularly talk about what we would do if we did have a fight, and how we might approach resolving it.

      And “let me win,” or “don’t try to be rational or bring up rational points,” or “be more self-deprecating” are not among the things I would ask. Nor would I view him as competing with me or not listening if he pushed back against my viewpoint. I respect that he does voice his opinions and isn’t afraid to disagree with me – I value his different perspective, I don’t find it devaluing to me.

      In fact, one of the things that most annoys me about conflicts I have had with both men and women over the years are those who get upset if anything logical is brought up and want the argument to be all about swapping feelings and just ‘listening (but only to feelings, not any relevant information,) followed by a ‘reconciliation’ which is just complimenting them until they feel better. No solution can be reached that way, and it isn’t true reconciliation or compromise. It’s just brushing the issue under the rug, and putting a higher value on emotionalism over wisdom.

      Feelings and rationality *both* have their place and value in a conflict. One wants to resolve hurts and perceived injuries, but *also* deal with underlying issues and approach the situation with wisdom and a plan for a real solution, not just a momentary hug-it-out.

  • Aaron Warner says on

    This was one of the stupidest articles I’ve read in a while? Why? The take away is we’re being told how to not argue with our wives by a man that doesn’t know how to argue with his wife in a godly way and believes he is called to adore her rather than lead her. We learn she is your spiritual master, both wiser and more righteous. How is this biblical, and how are you to lead this spiritual juggernaut of a woman? This smacks of self-hating weak Ahabery that tickles the ears of the worldly rather than demonstrates what a man is called to do WHEN he argues with his wife. Good luck avoiding all arguments fellas. And for those of you who take Thom’s advice and hide your manhood in your wife’s purse for safety and peace keeping, good luck getting it back.

    Some things are right and wrong gentlemen and it’s your duty before God to know them, and lead your house in that way, including your wife. If your wife is never wrong or you can’t come out in top in an argument for fear of her wrath or feelings you need to reread 1 John 1:10 applied to her and Hebrews 12 as God looking at her would.

    Of note, Thom gives us no Bible verses to support his experiential wisdom. But here a few I think God might want us to consider in regard to this matter:

    while I was still searching but not finding— I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.
    Ecclesiastes 7:28

    Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
    1 Corinthians 14:34-38

    Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
    Ephesians 5:22-24

    Why would God Himself say these things? Do we listen to God or Thom? Do we adore our wives or lead them and adore them AFTER we adore God?

    This kind of teaching encourages more of the weakness we see destroying our churches and opening the door to false and heretical teaching while encouraging the very Jezebel spirit Jesus warns against in Revelation. Behind her is God’s judgment which looks like sickness. The only vaccine for it is to repent and act like a man after God not a man subservient to his wife. She’s not built for it guys, she’s made to compliment you not commandeer you.

    FYI – I’m happily married for 11 years and my wife and I are marriage mentors. She is beautiful and godly, sometimes right, but not enough to where she can take the lead unless I know it’s the right thing to do. We argue, and sometimes she wins, sometimes she doesn’t. Neither of us is stupider for it.

  • Great article! Thanks for sharing! You are not alone!!!!

  • Robert G Cleveland says on

    I heard a poem (mumble mumble) years ago, which was easy to remember, and always profitable to follow:

    If you want a successful marriage
    That fills up your loving cup
    Whenever you’re wrong, admit it
    And whenever you’re right, shut up!

    Easy to remember; not so easy to follow.

  • Fellow Listener says on

    This was a great article. I often fall into this for another reason, but the same spirit. I am competitive, but most times only when I have a competitive advantage. When I know I’m right my ears and attention shut off. Also saying that my ego, selfishness, and desires are more important. Most times I’m the more wiser, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the decency of me wanting to hear their heart, where they are at, and what they have to say.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, FL.

      • Ive been married 26 years never a career minister but have had trouble finding balance between ministry and family for years till i attended Lakewood Church under Joel osteen where emphasis was emphatically that our family was our first church
        I believe this has helped me become wven a better father a better husband and wiser minister
        Wherer i can help others from the vantage of overflow rather than drowning myself
        Lime it was said what good does it do yo gain the world and lose your family