Is The “Argument Free Marriage” an Oxymoron?
I think it was Sam Kinison who said, “I don’t worry about terrorism. I was married for two years.”
Hopefully, most of us don’t concur with this exaggerated-for-laughs analogy, but the notion behind it is uncomfortably identifiable. The idea of a couple arguing is so commonplace that it has become a cliché. Many a comedian has made a career out mocking marital tensions (“take my wife– please!!), and countless movies, plays and songs derive their narrative from the mate versus mate conflict. Nothing wrong with this scenario, right? Doesn’t pop psychology tell us that it’s healthy for a couple to have arguments? Go ahead, let it all out, make your feelings known, be strong and stand your ground. Every couple fights, right?
Well, apparently not Fawn and Keith Weaver. Mrs. Weaver is an author and marriage blogger who just published a book provocatively titled, “The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have.” In it she claims that she and her husband have never had an argument in all of their 12 years of marriage – the result, apparently, of faithfully following a marital conflict-resolution technique she herself conceived of and perfected over the years.
Making The Rounds
Fawn has been making the rounds on her book promotion tour, explaining the basis and the formula of her technique. In a nutshell, she says that an argument-free marriage is undeniably possible, even when one or both partners are strong willed, independent, and opinionated, as she and her spouse are. Her book takes the reader on a 28-day journey to learn how to live together without bickering, blame, angry outbursts, or silent treatments.
My first reaction was, “heck, where’s the fun then?“ My 24-year-old marriage has certainly had its ample share of arguments. And while this may or may not be very healthy, some of these fights were actually invigorating and fun… in a perverse kind of way. But this may also stem from the fact that my husband and I have a quirky sense of humour and often end up collapsing in laughter mid-fight, after suddenly becoming hyperaware of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of our mouths. At other times, however, the arguments are simply draining, both emotionally and mentally, and though they do at times achieve a resolution, it is often hard-won, and usually not long-lasting.
So my interest was piqued when I first saw Fawn speak about having an argument-free marriage on one of the TV talk shows. She is certainly a poised and articulate woman who seems to have thoroughly determined her thesis, however improbable it may seem. It was very interesting to watch her hosts – usually women – react to her proposition. It reminded me of a horse rearing and bucking at being led away, but then starting to trot slowly – albeit still neighing and snorting nervously. The male hosts, on the other hand, took to it right from the start. It was almost as if you could read the caption over their heads: “Hmm, an argument-free marriage… Heck, I’ll bite… sleeping on the couch has become such a bore.” Does this speak to the general view that women usually want to “talk things out,” while men want to “fix” the situation or “drop it” and move on?
The Basics of The Book’s Thesis
First, the assumptions:
- You’ve chosen the right partner.
- You love him/her, you believe he/she loves you.
- You don’t want to argue.
(She does disarm some of us out there who stubbornly believe that arguments are necessary and inevitable—not least of all because they lead to make-up sex—by saying, if this works for you, by all means continue on this path; my technique is for people who want to stop fighting.)
Now, the formula:
Fawn claims that there are only 3 things we need to do to create our own relationship free from the frustrations of bickering and fights:
Rule #1: Understand and obey the law of acceleration.
Rule #2: Stick to the original emotion
Rule #3: Keep at the forefront of your mind this indisputable fact: that tomorrow may never come
I have to admit, this formulation – although not terribly original – does hold merit. While it sounds almost scientific, Rule #1 basically boils down to “Cooler heads prevail” – a time-honoured conflict-resolution precept. When tensions and emotions escalate, rationality goes out the window – in tandem with a resolution – and nobody gets what they want. Fawn’s advice for decelerating the situation? Also not very original, but quite practical. Pause the minute you start feeling your emotions get the better of you. Go for a walk, do a workout, disappear for a while, until you feel calmer and more in control. Then, apply Rule #2: think about the original emotion that triggered your anger.
Getting to the Bottom of It
Fawn says that anger is a cover-up for feelings of hurt, disappointment and sadness, and these make us feel uncomfortably vulnerable. To shield our vulnerability, we assume an aggressive defensive response, and strike out in anger. The trick is to think about what the original feeling was before anger took over, and to communicate this to your partner. So, Rule 1 and 2 are basically, decelerate, and speak from the place of vulnerability. In an often emotionally charged situation between spouses, however, this may take a little time to learn how to do. Fawn’s plan claims to teach readers how to get to that point. In 28 days.
I’m ambivalent about Fawn’s Rule #3. In her TED Talk, Fawn relates the genesis of this insight. Keith, her fiancée at the time, suffered what seemed to be a near-death incident, and she agonized that she may never see him again. It was at that point she promised herself that each day would be filled with only loving exchanges between the two of them, because each exchange could be their last one. While I’m all for making the best out of every moment, I’m not sure I want to think every day about how ephemeral and unpredictable our lives are, and that Mr. Reaper is just around the corner, waiting with his scythe raised. Nor do I necessarily subscribe to the point of view that your last moment with your loved one defines your whole life with them or clouts what you had together.
Regardless, the book appears to have made a splash. I wonder, could it be due to the absolutist declaration in the title “argument-free marriage”, as in, never arguing, as well as its author’s media-savvy, eloquent and emphatic insistence on having a 12 year union devoid of any arguments? Might the book be less controversial with a less contrarian-sounding title?
Still, even if not terribly original at its core, Fawn Weaver’s formula is an effective step in the marriage-without-arguments direction, assuming the assumptions noted above. I might even incorporate some of her techniques in my own marital strife/life…right after I argue with my husband about doing this together!