Navigate Marital Conflict Successfully
- Bill and Pam Farrel Masterful Living
- 2004 12 Dec
Married life is very frustrating. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.
Yes, we do learn that there are words to live by on the topic of marital conflict, like:
Do not argue with a spouse who is packing your parachute.
So what would be a great gift this Christmas? The gift of getting along!
Twenty-five years ago this month we said, "I Do!" And quickly we decided we needed to make a conflict covenant so that our propensity for drama would be held in check. We wanted some tools to help us get along and get though disagreements and get back into feeling in love as quickly as possible. Our conflict rules of engagement are:
1. Check the timing. Is this the best time to talk? If it is personal, emotional, or not for kid's ears, we wait and make it private. If we are tired, we might begin the discussion and reschedule for a time we are better rested. Did one of us already have a bad day? Then wait.
2. Check our closeness. If the issue is really important, we go away and spend time together reconnecting first. Then we talk after we are rested, enjoyed some friendship activities, made love, etc.
3. Check our voice tone, body language, and attitude. Am I communicating love with what is unsaid? This has been a huge learning process for me (Pam) as Bill is a very sensitive man. He is easily wounded by my voice tone. I think I am being passionate or intense; he interprets it as harsh and judgmental. One day after he said I had hurt him still again, I asked him, "Then teach me. Teach me how you want me to express myself in a way that I can release my feelings and give you the needed input but in a way that doesn't wound you. Bill, I love you. I don't want to wound you every time we have an issue we have to talk through. Teach me what I can do differently or what words would be a better choice to use." And he did. He'd say, when you say, "You should . . . you need to . . .you ought to . . . I feel disrespected." Then when I'd raise my voice or get a certain inflection, he'd stop me and say, "Pam when you say it in that tone of voice, it shuts me down emotionally."
This was a hard decision for me (Pam) to make in allowing Bill to redesign how I communicate interpersonally but I believe it saved our marriage. I believe it paid big dividends later when I became a parent. My sons and I now enjoy great communication at a deep level because we all have learned a more healthy way to express emotion and our feelings in a way others can listen and receive. I had to put my pride aside for the greater good and the greater goal of love.
4. Check in with God. We begin and end and sometimes stop in the middle to pray. If the argument is going down a destructive path and we recognize we are hurting each other, we will often stop in the middle and pray. Sometimes we have to stop, pray and take a break for a few days. We use this time to check into God's word, think about the situation and process our own emotions.
The Farrels will be hosting a Joy in the Journey Dinner Gala, January 15, 2005 in Escondido Ca. For more information about this romantic relationship building event for married couples and singles looking for a romantic night out, please email www.masterfulliving.com or call 760-295-5792.