I love my wife Dorcas and we have been married for over 7 years. She is the love of my life, my best friend, my partner and the mother of my two amazing children. But not too long ago we had a fight.
My marriage is not a “photoshopped” marriage… we do have our challenges as most marriages do. The fight we had was not the first, and the issue we fought about wasn’t a new issue. It was an issue that had occurred before and this time it happened again.
I was furious cos I expressed my unhappiness about the issue before and yet it happened again. As some people will say… same song but different verse.
We both said things to each other through our words, via SMS (which was our mode of communication during that period as we were not in “talking mode” – we even used the children as messengers) and via instant messenger. We were both unhappy and we said things we wish never came out (but unfortunately they did and we cannot recall them). We acted in anger.
Why was this so? – We both had unmet needs and expectations and in the process we were expressing our unhappiness and at the same time scoring individual points for hurting each other as we both felt justified by our actions. None of us felt what we did was wrong as we had justifiable reasons why we did what we did.
Guess what? The issues were not resolved by our individual actions. We even had our evening family devotion – putting up a show for the kids to hide our irritation for each other. We went to the bedroom and slept on our sides of the bed, facing the opposite sides.
The worst part was when we woke up in the morning, each of us “seemed” to be having a wonderful morning devotion.
Her actions came across to me as being DISRESPECTFUL and my actions came across to her as being UNLOVING. And the vicious cycle of “I will behave in an unloving way to her until she speaks to me with respect” and “I will behave in a very disrespectful way to him until he begins to speak to me in a loving way or show that he loves me” resurfaced again.
As I reflect on that experience today, I began to ask myself “is this normal?” Do Christian couples fight?
According to John M. Gottman, Ph.D., in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Three Rivers Press), “All couples, happy and not, fight —and sometimes furiously,”
“The issue isn’t whether you fight, it’s how you fight and how rich your stockpile of good feelings is about each other to weather difficulties and keep your basic attitude toward your partner positive,” Gottman tells us.
This was a little bit reassuring that we were not the only ones experiencing this. The question I asked myself was “How can I avoid this vicious love-hate-love cycle that sometimes occurs when we have conflict?”
This prompted me to evaluate the situation and write down these lessons I want to remember for the future that will assist me in handling future conflicts.
These are the 13 Lessons I Learnt
Separate the person from the issue.
Speak in a tone of voice lower than your partner – When two people are shouting because they want to emphasise their opinions regarding an issue, in many instances no one hears the other. In some other instances the conversation can escalate due to the intensity of the conversation. It is nice to speak in a tone of voice lower then the other person as this tends to de-escalate the tension in the conversation.
Clarify your expectations – I don’t know if I battle with this alone, but some people assume that others can read their minds. I have learnt that I will clarify what my expectation is and not assume that my wife can read my mind or she automatically can know what I am thinking of. This erases any room for miscommunication.
Do not compare your spouse with another – Have you had a misunderstanding with your spouse and you begin to say things like “You are very different from your mother”? or “Why are you not like my father?” Not only is that very disrespectful, it is wrong. Everyone is unique in his/her way.
Listen more than you talk – This one is a tough one for me. Sometimes during an argument, while I am pretending to be listening… I am actually building up my points to blast back instead of listening to her.
See the best in each other! – This can be quite difficult especially after a heated argument.
Be the first to apologise! – This point can be very difficult to implement especially when you are not at fault, but it can be the miracle pill to diffuse the tension and restore the broken relationship back together.
Stay within the boundaries of the issue – Do not add previously unresolved issues to the conversation. (Ladies take note! Okay guys too).
Get a quick resolution of the issue.
Do not feel bad for having opposite opinions.
Watch the content of your words.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Pray for your spouse.
How do you deal with conflicts in your relationships? What are your thoughts on these lessons? Are there any other lessons you would add (or remove) from this list?
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PS. This post was inspired by Mike Kim and Michael Hyatt