Couples who say they have lived together for 50 years and never had a disagreement are either lying or fooling themselves. The only other option is that one of them is not thinking or sharing their thoughts with their spouse. So let’s get real. Couples get married thinking they have everything in common only to wake up and find that they are total opposites. God intended that a wife complete her husband and vice versa. That definition means she is everything he isn’t, thinks in ways he doesn’t. This is a good thing. As the old saying goes: ‘Two heads are better than one even if one is a cabbage head.” In order to navigate the obstacles life throws at a couple/family, it’s almost imperative that both partners be able to think and articulate their perspectives and solution ideas. As long as both partners see the same path forward, things move along smoothly. But let’s just say that is not always the way this marriage thing works for most of us. WHY?
1. We come from different backgrounds, maybe even different parts of the country/world.
2. Our family dynamics were different which means our expectations and indeed parenting styles will differ.
3. Our education backgrounds may vary.
4. Our ages may involve a “gap.”
5. We process information differently.
6. Our communication styles differ.
7. Face it. . .one of us is from Venus and the other is from Mars.
So what do couples do when they find they are on opposite ends of a spectrum?
1. Take a time out. HALT–first check point–is either party Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If so, postpone the discussion until these things are remedied.
2. Embrace the conflict. It’s a good thing that together you are able to view all sides of an issue.
3. Set a time and place to talk–after the kids are in bed, at a private restaurant, etc.
3. Prepare your case. I can assure you there are merits to each side. Consider you are a CEO and President of your family and take time to prepare your case for your family’s advancement. It’s time to think logically, not emotionally.
4. Listen respectfully to your mate’s perspective. Be curious. Ask questions.
5. List advantages and disadvantages of both sides. Find points of agreement.
6. PRAY TOGETHER
7. Look for options. Make concessions. Make a joint decision. If none can be reached at this point, the wife should let her husband lead–he has heard her case. God will hold him accountable and bless his leadership when you are supporting him.
But what happens when things just break down? You’ve forgotten the rules and emotions take over. Maybe one party has hurt the other party and the issue isn’t about making a decision, it’s about an open wound. Now what? There are still rules of fair play. You can ask forgiveness for your words but you can’t erase them, so choose them wisely during these times. It’s still best to HALT.
1. Never. . . EVER. . . NEVER call each other a name or label each other. This destroys the soul of your mate. The disagreement may blow over but harsh words go deep into the heart and no excavation will bring them back out. Just don’t do it. NOTHING is worth it.
2. Be specific. Avoid words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’
3. Talk softly. Have a whispering contest.
4. Keep the discussion about the issue, not each other. And stick to the issue at hand–don’t use a bait and switch tactic.
5. Express your feelings. “I feel ________when you ________ because_________.” Do not use the word ‘angry’ as your feeling of choice.
6. Never ridicule the other person’s feelings or thoughts. NEVER put the other person, their ideas or feelings, down just because you don’t agree with them or cannot see their viewpoint.
7. Be the first to say you are sorry.
When my husband and I got married we set some ground rules.
1. We would never go to bed angry. We’ve sat up really late a lot of nights until one or the other of us decided it wasn’t worth losing sleep over.
2. When one of us makes a concession to the other, the ‘winner’ must buy the other one a gift of appreciation.
3. Touch gently. We would hold hands when we have a serious issue to discuss. Our favorite way was to call a tribal meeting and sit facing each other cross-legged as we held hands. In other words, we gave up our defensive position and came to the meeting with love.
4. Keep it private. Don’t discuss our disagreements with others.
6. Always honor each another publicly.
7. No violence of any kind permitted.
Have we always kept the rules? No, but we took them seriously so we remind each other of them from time to time. And since we know them and agreed to them, we have tools to help keep us on track and to get us back on track. God teaches us how to make this marriage thing work with two words.
Gals, your word is HONOR. Figure out all the ways that you can show this word to your husband–determine you are going to be the best ever at this.
Guys, your word is LOVE–God says as much love as you would lavish on yourself. Go before God and understand how to love. Even when those Christ came to save rejected Him, He forgave and chose to die for them/us. This is the model you were given for the depths of your love. Your wife expects you to demonstrate it by laying down your way for her good from time to time.