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Be the Judge

December 19, 2017

I started writing this as a reply to this thread on askMRP, but thought it would be worth posting here. The question posed was, essentially, if arguments ever stop and, implicitly, how to handle them.

My job right now is to argue (attorney). It's rare to have a case where I'm not arguing against someone. There's almost always an attorney or party on the other end. But if I were to run for judge and win, my new job would be to hear someone else's arguments and make a decision. Which role are you playing in your marriage?

Playing Attorney

When you DEER and argue with your wife, you are putting yourself on an equal playing field with her. You're saying that you're one attorney and she's the other and you're both pushing for differing agendas. The problem is that there's no invisible judge presiding over the situation. This means that you're both implicitly assuming that there's some objective "right answer" and you're more closely aligned with that objective reality. But because that objective reality is an inanimate ideology that never acts or reveals itself, the argument itself becomes the centerpiece of the show. The argument is emotionally devastating in many such cases because there is no absolute resolution - only a concession toward trial and error based on whoever has more steel plates in their head to keep banging.

  • EXAMPLE: Suppose she starts arguing that you should never spank your kids. You argue back that spanking is perfectly appropriate and beneficial. There's so much evidence on both ends of the spectrum that nobody can definitively say whose way is better. There is no magical parenting fairy who will appear to screaming parents and tell them who's right.

Whenever you engage in an argument in a back-and-forth manner, even though you're arguing against her, you're actually validating her view. By playing the role of "opposing counsel" you're communicating that objective truth has not been discovered on that issue yet. You cannot then play the, "I'm the guy, I'm the leader, so I win" card because now it comes from a place of weakness. You have not persuaded her that your way is better, and you have just proven to her that no objective reality is going to decide the case either ... so, in her mind she's following a guy who keeps getting it wrong.

  • NOTE: Winning arguments and getting your way aren't methods of strengthening your frame or "holding frame." Being an argumentative jerk who never backs down might be a persona you want to craft into your frame, but it is not your frame itself. Your frame is who you are and how you project that to those around you. If you deviate from who you want to be just to win an argument or get your way, you may prove a point, but you've broken frame to do it. You've shown her that she has the power (through sacrifice of her ideologies) to change you, for better or worse. This is not a display of strength, but of weakness.

Playing Judge

Instead, you just need to take the position of judge from the get-go. At that point, you're not arguing with her - you're listening to her argument. That's a huge difference.

Interestingly, go watch a real trial (not Judge Judy crap) and you'll notice something right away: Judges STFU. They sit there and listen. They don't argue. They really only speak when someone objects. When a witness is finished or the case concludes, the judge might ask some questions, but they never engage in the argument itself. They never argue back. They are only seeking more information with which to make a wise and informed decision. The judge's opinion, then, becomes objective reality. Yes, it may be subjective as to the decision itself, but the authority from which the decision is made is objective - something that everyone knows not to defy. As attorneys often tell clients, "I don't care if it's a bad decision; you better do what the judge says anyway."

Now, in his opinion the judge does address the arguments. He explains to the attorneys and parties, "I heard what you had to say and here's what I think about that." He explains himself because this builds validity and respect behind the ruling. Attorneys and parties learn from this which judges are the "good ones" and which are the "bad ones" - and it's how you preempt comfort tests, by letting her know that you heard, understood, and valued her input, even if you end up chucking it out the window. If the judge did not do this, every case would be appealed. But even if a party disagrees with the ruling, if the opinion is well-reasoned the party knows that the ruling will stand, even despite appeal. The difference is that the judge is not arguing, he's explaining. He's establishing precedent and saying, "If something similar happens again in the future, this is how I'm going to process that situation and rule on it."

Whether you're an attorney or judge, the arguments will be never-ending. The difference is that as an attorney the arguments are against you; but when you're a judge, the arguments are to you. Position yourself as judge, not attorney. Don't argue back; rather, STFU until she's said all she has to say, then issue your ruling: "Here's what I'm doing and here's why I'm doing it. I heard what you had to say, and here are my thoughts on it." If she tries to argue back, let her know that you're not arguing - you're deciding. I've had good luck often reminding my wife, "We could argue about this, but then there would never be finality. Do you want to have a decision and move forward or do you want to debate for the next three hours?" The question is, of course, rhetorical - she knows I'm not going to entertain the debate even if she says that's what she wants.

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Post Information
Title Be the Judge
Author Red-Curious
Upvotes 108
Comments 121
Date December 19, 2017 5:51 PM UTC (5 years ago)
Subreddit /r/MarriedRedPill
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You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea.

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