5 / 06
Image of birds flying. Image of birds flying.

#741 Debating Your Wife

July 18, 2021

Dr. Craig,

I'm wondering how your debating (and even apologetic/philosophical) skills impact your marriage and friendships if you and your wife or friends disagree. Do you argue less, more, or better because of these skills? (By better, I mean more gently as well as more skillfully.) I know that you teach against being argumentative, as the scriptures teach. On the other hand, as even Jesus and Paul seemed to get into heated debates in defending the faith, I'm wondering if your skills make you less heated in marriage and friendships when there are disagreements. Thank you for your ministry and example.


Flag of United States. United States

Photo of Dr. Craig.

Dr. craig’s response


Actually, Olatunde, I think that the situation is almost the opposite! In a debate situation the goal is to win the argument. But I have learned that in a marriage the goal is not to win the argument. Rather the goal is to come to some sort of mutually acceptable resolution, so that harmony and good feelings can be restored. The man who thinks that the goal is to win an argument with his wife is pursuing a short-sighted and counter-productive strategy, for it leaves unresolved problems that lead to bitterness and emotional distance. Small cracks can over time become crevasses. Pursuing the winning strategy makes your marriage worse and leads to greater unhappiness.

So if you find yourself in a disagreement with your wife, ask yourself, How can we resolve this? Listen to her thoughtfully and do not disparage her feelings. Try not to react emotionally or retaliate. Ask questions. Always be looking for a way to resolve the problem in a mutually acceptable way.

At the same time I’d advise you not to be too quick to propose a solution. Give her a chance to vent her feelings and express her point of view. If you jump too soon to suggesting solutions, she may reject them peremptorily because she feels that she hasn’t been adequately heard. If there’s something you need to apologize for, ask for her forgiveness. Leave it up to the Lord to convict her of what she may have done wrong to contribute to the situation. You don’t need to play the Holy Spirit. Rather try to see where you may have been at fault and be ready to apologize for what you did or said. Then gently suggest a solution: “Maybe we could. . . .”

In our marriage, it is actually Jan who has benefited from my debate experience. She knows how to communicate with me on my wavelength. So she will often present her case in outline form: “(a). . . .  (b). . . .” She figures that if she has good reasons for what she thinks or feels, then I’m more apt to agree with her point of view. I appreciate her effort to reach out to me in a way I understand.

So forget about winning! Instead, focus on maintaining your relationship “with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.2-3). 

- William Lane Craig