Do you ever find yourself arguing with your spouse? Going around and around about an issue with little resolve? If so, then Gary Chapman, the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants and bestselling author of THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, says you're not alone. In fact, every couple has disagreements. In marriage, conflict is inevitable. But arguing is a choice.
In this short, focused title, Chapman explores what's so bad about arguing and why it's important to resolve conflicts of every size. He challenges readers to identify their most painful arguments as well as which three issues have consumed the most time and energy over the past year. Chapman believes that no matter what arguments you are having with your spouse, it's essential to look for resolution. He argues that conflicts within a relationship arise out of our uniqueness.
Chapman believes that the answer to conflict resolution is not in trying to rid ourselves of our differences but in discovering how to make our differences into assets rather than liabilities. The goal of a good, healthy marriage is learning to work together as a team and discovering resolution that pulls the couple together rather than apart.
Drawing examples from his own interactions with couples as a counselor, the book offers a variety of stories that most married people can relate to. For instance, Chapman describes Iris and Jerry, a couple who decided to repaint their house. They agreed on every color until it came to painting the bathroom. That's where the argument began: Iris wanted green while Jerry preferred blue. As each spouse makes their case why their color is the best, Chapman surmises that both parties are still in arguing mode and haven't moved to resolution mode. He encourages each spouse to verbally affirm the other's ideas. In the process, each spouse softens, and in the end, they decide to paint the bathroom green and blue.
Such resolution may seem elementary unless, of course, you're the one in the situation. That's when reflecting an attitude of respect and togetherness is the most important. Chapman believes that one of the crucial aspects of resolving any argument is taking the time to listen, which opens up the door to understanding. He points out that the issue you're arguing about may not be the issue at all --- there may be charged statements or beliefs that run deeper or have more invested than you may realize. That's why asking questions and taking the time to listen is so powerful.
Each chapter closes with a section on "Putting the Principles into Practice," which offers a handful of questions for reflection. At the end of the book is "A Resolution By Which Everybody Wins," a one-page contract for spouses to sign as they seek to improve their communication and resolution skills.
The book's greatest strength --- it's brevity --- is also its greatest weakness, at times leaving the reader looking for more depth. But overall, EVERYBODY WINS is a great, quick reference guide.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on December 18, 2006