9.20.2013 @ 8.55 am
Tyler Perry uses this phrase as a title to his popular film about marriage, conflict, and the often difficult path to resolving both everyday differences as well as deeply entrenched, on-going struggles.
Most of us didn’t get married so we would have one person that we could disagree with on a regular basis! “I so much enjoy our periodic disagreements, let’s get married so we can do this all the time”….probably was NOT on our list of reasons why I want to marry you! And yet for many of us married folk, we have well worn paths that we shuffle down as we do life together, find that we might disagree on issues or choices large or small, and then have to choose HOW to both resolve the issue AND deepen our marriage intimacy.
And there doesn’t seem to have been a class in high school – or university for that matter – in how to do conflict wisely and well. Our default modes…….what we saw or parents do as they had disagreements, our natural personality tendencies (escalate, blame-shift, pull out the dagger of sarcasm, or just withdraw and try to avoid the conflict)…….these strategies rarely take us to the place the scriptures invite us to dwell as seek to cultivate a marriage that honors the Lord AND nourishes us as individuals and as a couple – Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Colossian believers:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 NASB)
Karen and I have walked the “energized discussion” path many times in our 40 years of marriage….and I often deployed my familiar strategies to “make my point” (i.e. WIN)…..I would raise my voice just a bit (godly husbands don’t yell), or as her to explain the “logic” of her feelings (why are you feeling that way)…..you can see where these discussions / disagreements were headed, right – yep, not much resolution and lots of hurt feelings.
One day my dear wife confronted me….not on the issue we were “discussing”, but on how I was making her feel as we talked in emphatic tones….
“I don’t do that” was my carefully crafted defense. ‘Yes you do, you have done it for years, and it really hurts me.”
The gracious Holy Spirit brought a single word answer to my mind and then my tongue and that word took me on a journey of reflection that slowly transformed the way we do disagreements……my profound response? “REALLY?”
I stopped talking…..thought for what seemed like a long time, and then had the wisdom to simply say, “I’m sorry, I had no idea. I need some time to think about what you just said.”
I’ve linked an article from a marriage blog that identifies several well-worn paths that we can find ourselves when we disagree…..it’s written for us men, but I think you ladies might find it enlightening as well. Read it, and THINK about your style….if you are really courageous, ask your spouse what bothers them the most when you disagree! And then REFLECT for awhile about what they tell you.10 Sure Ways to Make Arguments Worse!
Larry Shoemaker – Pastor of Marriage & Family
(909) 335-7333, x 135 | firstname.lastname@example.org