We’ve all had them: the argument that starts at one point and always gets back to that same argument we’ve had a dozen times before with our loved one, teenager, mother, ex-spouse, siblings. Point A has been revisited so many times, you know the script by heart. The same issue in the same relationship with the same block you can’t get past. You want to throw up your hands and give up. But if it’s someone you care about deeply, or you must deal with and you know you can’t. Some of the unspoken and undergirds of every circular argument are:

  • You don’t recognize my feelings
  • You don’t respect me.
  • You don’t hear me.
  • You’re not respecting my authority.
  • You are not loving me as I need to be loved.
  • You don’t care.
  • You won’t put forth the effort it takes to resolve this.
  • You’ve hurt me deeply and you don’t realize it.
  • I tell you the same thing and you won’t change.


Can you relate to any of these? It is not an exhaustive list, but you get my point. I get a strong sense I can feel you shaking your head in agreement.

Georgia Shaffer states, “Like parched earth, our hearts harden like cement when the hurts, angers and losses accumulate.” They add to the circular argument and until the core gets dealt with there will continue to be explosives. The little aggressions end us right back to Point A. How can we get a breakthrough?

According to Einstein, the definition of insanity, is to do the same thing expecting different results. We need to do something different. The fact is, conflict comes because two people see things differently and may have different values. How can you relate to the other person’s values?

Trying something different means:

Pray for understanding. Yes, God cares about this detail of your life. He offers wisdom and the patience in the fruit of the spirit. It is amazing how things can change when we ask God to enter a situation. Make your prayer, “give us eyes to see and ears to hear this too Lord.” I’m not talking some mamby pamby prayer you slap onto a situation. I mean pray, God what do I need to change in me to change this. Maybe He wants to change you. This may be a spiritual battle more than a intellectual one.

Relationships are worth the effort. Conflict is what can make us stronger in this relationship, don’t run from it. Be curious what is going on in the other persons mind. Conflict is an opportunity to deepen the relationship.

Make a word picture. In The Language of Love, Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent describe the communication style called word pictures. Instead of saying “You hurt my feelings!” Try a word picture: “Do you remember how you felt when your baseball coach told you you’d never be a good hitter?” (Now your husband can call up those feelings via your word picture.) “That’s how I felt after you told me…”

Change the setting. Would a new environment help the people to see it more clearly? Is it time to have a date with your son or daughter to listen more to their heart?

Decide to drop your weapons and listen. Maybe to be understood we must first try to understand. You may feel you have been the one to sacrifice enough already, but try one more time just to listen to understand how the other person is seeing the world.

Try to put yourself in the other persons shoes. What is it like being a teenager with all the pressures.

Reflect back what is being said from the other person.

Get a mediator: professional or otherwise—perhaps a pastor or someone who is neutral. Don’t sweep it under the rug if it is a serious issue hurting your relationship. It will only compound and hurt your relationship more later.

Words that open people up:

  • I care about you and how you feel.
  • I really want to understand what you are saying.
  • Help me understand… I want to understand where you are coming from.
  • Let’s just take a minute to talk about what you just said.


If the circular argument continues…

Get help! You need some outside counsel. We all need outside counsel sometimes. We were never meant to be alone in our struggles. The smartest and the wisest among us have support in those areas they can’t break through. Even after the worst argument, there is time for asking forgiveness. Make your heart tender and open. Ask God, what does He want me to do to love this person better? Are my ways right? Is my heart right? Can I give control over to God on this? The circular argument has eventually destroyed many relationships. As a domestic mediator, I see it again and again. Try something new to get to the bottom of the issue and make our relationships better in the process.


Kathey Batey is a domestic mediator, speaker trainer. Creator of Divorce Support Anonymous and ReDesigning Your Life programs.

Kathey Batey www.Spiritedpresentations.com


(810) 730-6679