How to Argue Like a Lawyer and Win Your Marriage

Lawyers are the worst. Everyone knows that. But they do one thing well: argue. They are professional verbal fighters operating within a specific set of boundaries. Wouldn’t it be nice if our marital fighting had the same parameters—a few rules and strategies to keep communication on track? Here are some tactics to steal from the lawyers. (Someone set an egg timer to see how long it takes to get sued.)

Exhibit A: Objections. Objections are used in the court to challenge the proceedings. They hold both sides accountable to pre-set rules. There are quite a few that are damn applicable to typical marital sparring.

1. Objection! Asked and answered

If a witness is on the stand and the lawyer keeps asking the same question hoping to trick them into a difference response, this is the objection the other side will use. Once an answer is on the record it must be accepted. The same goes for regular spats. How many times are you going to ask him, “Is that what you’re wearing?” Yes, he apparently thinks his ironic t-shirt is perfect for all occasions. His answer simply isn’t going to change no matter how you phrase the question. This is also a great objection to use with the kids. I have literally yelled “Asked and answered!” to the backseat of my minivan after I told the rug rats 100 times we were not getting French fries for breakfast. Once a question has been answered, you must move on.

2. Objection! Irrelevant

This happens all the time in arguments. You are really getting into it about the state of the dishes and she brings up how many times you golfed in the last month. Either you have to clearly explain the connection or wait to have a golf fight after you’ve had a dish fight. Stay on track and solve one problem at a time.

3. Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence

Let’s say you see a large charge to Target on your bank statement and you ask to your wife, “Why do you buy so much crap we don’t need from Target?” Whoa Tiger. You don’t know what she bought. The “fact” that you “don’t need” it must be established before you can talk about blowing your discretionary spending budget. Maybe she got cash back and tucked a few twenties in your wallet just so to save you a trip to the bank. I mean MAYBE she did. Of course, MAYBE she bought some awesome throw pillows and you should make sure they don’t, in fact, add a much-needed pop of color and ambiance to your living room before you complain. You know, hypothetically. The point being, make sure you collect all your background facts before proceeding with a line of questioning.

4. Objection! Badgering

It’s not always easy to stay civil when tempers are rising, but badgering isn’t allowed in a courtroom and it shouldn’t be a part of a marriage either. Once a fight dissolves into name-calling or flipping off your partner when they turn their back, then it might be time for a recess (Another legal term! We’ve got the hang of this now!). A recess is a break in the action and it could be 5 minutes or overnight. It’s an extremely important tool to let both sides regroup and decide what’s worth continuing to fight over.

What lawyers do is argue all day every day and we can learn some important lessons from them on how to civilly and swiftly solve a dispute with a minimum of hurt feelings. Of course, lawyers have the benefit of a neutral judge to rule on these objections. Marital fighting rules will have to be self-enforced, but we can do it! The goal is to fight, solve, and get back to the good stuff. Like watching TV while resting on some very cozy and practical throw pillows.