“No, don’t burn my boxes!” I cried out as the flames echoed back, “Too late.”
My last blog detailed our battle when Don threw away the boxes I was saving. This blog asks a question: “When we disagree, how can we talk things over and connect so we both feel closer to each other, not farther away?” During much of our married life we have argued and just gotten over it often without taking the time to talk about issues, but lately we have decided to be more intentional to work out our differences so that our 49th year together is our best year ever – it is never too late!
A great marriage is hard work. It takes a little time and a lot of relationship, but it is so worth the outcome of enjoying your best friend for a lifetime. When Don or I have a dramatic disagreement, we try to discover what is really going on so that we can respond and get connected to each other again. Here is how we go about it (and need to have a go at it more often, I might add.)
Dealing With Rocky Moments
1) We find a good time to calmly revisit a rocky time, sometimes letting things simmer a little while as we both think over what happened and ask God to help us.
2) We take turns talking, sharing “what happened?” from each of our viewpoints. Often we don’t even agree on what happened, let alone why. We are beginning to see that this doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other one wrong, but that we just see things differently.
3) We focus on really listening to each other until we understand the other’s perspective and try to understand where he (she) is coming from, rather than taking offense. You do you have to choose to “take” offense, just like you choose to take hors d’oeuvre waiter offers. Often our partner just wants to be heard and respected. Really listening says, “I want to hear you. I am here for you because you matter to me.”
3)Then we go deeper and try to share what triggered our disagreement, identifying our raw spots. We try to name our core fears, whether it is fear of rejection, failure, abandonment, disapproval, loss, or lack of trust. This step is key because most of the time we find our argument often triggered a response that was not only about the recent event but also about some underlying feeling, usually a felt need being unmet like the need for affirmation, value, security, intimacy, purpose, or control.
4) We affirm each other with the assurance that “I will be there for you when you need me. I care about you and your needs.”
We have so much to learn as we try to be a safe haven for each other in times of trouble and doubt, standing together against the things that try to pull us apart. Togetherness takes practice, and we plan to keep practicing till we say, “beam me up, Scottie.”
In my next post I’ll share our actual dialogue about the flaming boxes. In meantime, I challenge you to have a “Dealing with Conflict” conversation with a spouse or friend. Let me know how it goes.