Fighting the Good Fight – Soothing

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  and influence.  This week let’s take a look at how we can self-soothe and soothe our spouse when anger and fighting get the best of us.

As we have discussed earlier, fighting often leads to flooding.  As emotions increase we enter the “fight or flight” response.  Blood flows from our brain to our extremities, blood pressure increases, heart rate increases and our ability to reason decreases.  If not dealt with, flooding can result in lashing out in anger or engaging in withdrawal and stonewalling.  None of these are good for a relationship.

To resolve flooding a couple can engage in two activities, self-soothing and soothing each other.

Use Your Time-Out Effectively – Soothing

A couple of weeks ago we discussed how and when to take a time out.  A time out allows you the time to self-soothe with the goal of calming down and restoring blood flow to the brain where you can reason through an issue.  People do this in many ways.  Reading the bible, praying, meditation, deep breathing exercises or listening to calming music are all ways to calm yourself.  Remember, it takes longer for men to exit flooding than women so additional time may be required for self-soothing.  Once you have calmed down, helping to soothe your partner can have even more benefits.

Dr. Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work explains: ” Soothing your partner is of enormous benefits to a marriage because it is really a form of reverse conditioning. In other words, if you frequently have the experience of being calmed by your spouse, you come to associate him or her with feelings of relaxation rather than stress. This automatically increases the positivity of your relationship.”  Soothing can take many forms but normally the first step is simply discussing why the flooding took place in the first place.  There are many ways to soothe your spouse but what is important is they choose the method and enjoy it.  A husband might give his wife a foot massage or they may take turns guiding each other through meditation activities. Whatever the activity, it is important that, in the end, both of you are calmer and better able to engage in the discussion that started the fight.

Prepare for Battle

One of the things that I heard in the military was that it was better to sweat in peace than bleed in war. In other words, preparing during peace allows you to be more effective in combat. This also applies to soothing. Taking some time before your next fight to think about how you will soothe one another can pay huge dividends.  Simply think about your last fight and what it was that resulted in flooding.  Discuss how you can prevent flooding in the first place, recognize flooding as it is happening, and what it is you need to do when things have spiraled out of control. Finally, discuss how you can serve one another by soothing each other during your next fight.

Honey We Need to Talk

“Honey We Need to Talk”

We normally think of these words as negative. The first thing that runs through your mind may be “What have I done now?”  But… they can actually be a great thing. David Clarke wrote a book called “Honey We Need to Talk”. In this book he talks about how a man can use these words to control the conversation and prevent the inevitable spider webbing that results from talking to a woman. David created a formula for having successful deep intimate conversation with your spouse.

*The wife thinks of 3 topics she would like to discuss with her husband.

*The husband schedules three,  thirty minute “Couple Talk Time” meetings with his wife the following week to discuss one of the topics,

*The same topic is discussed at each meeting.

*The husband sends his wife reminders before each meeting.

*The meeting spot needs to be a neutral zone that feels safe for both people.  The bedroom is not an option.

*The husband begins the meeting and ends the meeting.

This puts the husband in charge of the topic of conversation and allows him the freedom to talk about one topic without being subjected to a wide variety of other issues.  It allows him to focus on one thing at a time which is more in tune with his natural abilities.  It also allows the couple to go deeper into a topic knowing that it will be discussed at each meeting. If research on the subject needs to be done, they have the time and freedom to do that before the next meeting. This gives both the husband and wife a sense of control over the topic of conversation because they both get input into what topic is. It also keeps the conversation in small manageable chunks of information.  This is a great tool to use for times of conflict, but it can also be used as a time for you to set aside to get to know your wife on a deeper more intimate level.

Example

Sally is concerned about not having a budget, the need for car repairs and her mother coming over for Thanksgiving.  She sends these three topics to Frank on Saturday.  Frank chooses the topic of budgeting and sets a time Monday night for the conversation.

Monday night they look at their bank accounts and discuss different ways they might set up a budget.  Sally agrees to research other ways and Frank agrees to bring account information concerning their spending over the past six months.  Next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

Wednesday night Franks shows Sally where they have been spending their money and expresses concern over how much they spend on eating out.  Sally shares a way they could budget using envelopes and Frank agrees to try this method.  Sally points out that Frank has been spending money on video games and expresses concern that he might not be willing to limit his spending on this hobby.  Frank gets a little mad but agrees to think about it until their next meeting, Friday night.

Friday night Frank has a number of envelopes and they divide their weekly budget placing the amounts budgeted for food, entertainment, rent, bills, etc in each envelope.  Frank has thought about his gaming and agrees to buy only 1 game per month.  This money is placed in the entertainment envelop.

Three conversations on a sensitive topic with Frank having time to process each step and both of them having a conversation on their financial goals and resources.  Both influence the other.  Both feel heard.  Both feel progress towards mutual goals have been made.  Win/Win/Win.

Using this Time to Share Your Life

Men you are aware that your woman wants to hear about your day and what is going on in your life. What is really going on inside of you spiritually, your thoughts, feelings, goals, life ambitions,etc. David suggests that men keep a notepad or electronic device with them to record events that happen during the day or of thoughts and feelings that might interest their wife. Then share these tidbits of information during Couple Talk Time.  Sharing your thoughts and feelings gives your wife the emotional support she needs to feel secure in the relationship.

This is a communication tool to put in your tool belt to assist you with that deep emotional connection that is desired by your spouse.

My husband and I have tried this and found it to be very beneficial in discussing topics that are often swept under the rug. I highly recommend you try this with your spouse.

Fighting the Good Fight – Influence

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts and compromise.  This week let’s take a look at how we allow our spouse to influence us.

Recently I was sharing with some friends that when I was much younger I got a little depressed about my work situation and joined the Air Force without discussing it with Patty.  In essence, I made a life-changing decision that took a newly married young woman away from her family of origin without allowing her to influence my decision.  I didn’t even ask her opinion.   I returned home and advised that within 3-5 days I would be in a uniform being yelled at by a training instructor and within a few months we would be moving.  Destination – Unknown.  Looking back I am surprised I didn’t show up to basic training with hand prints on my throat.

In the end, it worked out.  Looking back I am surprised it did.

When couples fight one of the things that they are often trying to do is influence their spouse.  According to research, couples who resist influence are much more likely to divorce.  When a man is not willing to share power with their wife the couple is 81% more likely to end up in divorce court.  A marriage is a commitment to allow the other person input into those issues that effect them.  Couples who share power, who allow their partner to influence them during an argument, feel like they are part of a unified marriage.

Common sense should tell you that you need to allow your spouse to influence you.  Patty sees things from such a different perspective than I do.   Wisdom would dictate that I not only take her insight into consideration, but that I seek it out regularly.  She is more relational where I am task oriented.  In our ministry both are needed and her strength offsets my weakness.  She was made a helpmate for me, and I am blessed to have her and blessed when she “weighs in” on issues.

However, when emotions are running high and a fight ensues we often withdraw and refuse to listen.  We feel we have the right viewpoint and then work hard, sometimes too hard, to defend it.  When that happens people feel disrespected and unappreciated.  Then it is on like donkey-kong.

Before the crazy cycle starts take a moment and ask yourself if you are resisting influence and if so, why.  Are you embarrassed over a decision you have made and now feel the need to defend yourself?  Do you really feel that your spouse has no valid viewpoint on the situation?  Are you really so filled with pride that you feel you don’t need input from your spouse?  Beware, you are crossing into dangerous territory.

Strong couples value the opinion of their spouse and seek influence often.  They may not always choose to take the advice when provided, but they seek the advice and consider it when making a decision.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.  (Proverbs 12:15)

Fighting the Good Fight – Compromise

A couple of weeks ago we started this series with an intro to Fighting the Good Fight and discussed a Soft Startup.  Last week we discussed Repair Attempts.  This week we want to focus on compromise.

Work to Compromise

Since 69% of arguments will never be completely resolved, compromise is often the best we can expect from some of our differences.  Compromise takes place when we attempt to understand our conflicting needs and then explore ways those needs can be better met. One of the best examples is frequency of sex.  Research indicates that over a lifetime a man will desire sex six times more often than women. Tommy Nelson, author of The Book of Romance, said that if God had given man and woman the same sex drive as the man, there would be children everywhere but we would all live in caves because we would never have time for planning or building houses.  If God had given both man and woman the same sex drive as a woman, we would have lived in a very highly advanced culture, for one generation. Then mankind would have disappeared from the face of the earth because we would seldom have sex.  This, of course, requires compromise. Ryan and Celina Fredericks,  authors of Fierce Marriage, often talk about how they resolved this issue themselves. He determined he needed intimacy/sex 3-4 times a week. She did not need it anywhere near that often and was often exhausted raising two children.  The compromise, their goal would be three times a week and he would settle for two times a week when she had a rough week with the children. They then entered the time for twice a week in their calendar as a reminder so she did not forget, which had been a problem historically. He agreed to be flexible based on her needs and challenges of the day.  This is a great example of how couples can talk through issues and then come to a compromise.

Have a Plan

When issues arise, take the following actions:

  1. Work to identify the real need – As we have discussed before, often our fights are not what our fights are about.  Try and work together to discover what the real issue is.
  2. Explore possibilities of how those needs can be better met.  Allow the other person to influence your thinking and agree to try different ways until something works.
  3. Choose an option and try it for a short period of time until you find something that works.

This course of action often requires patience, sacrifice, compromise, a dedication to peace, a gentle approach and not just a little self control.  Sound familiar?  Remember, a really joyous marriage is not possible without the indwelling spirit of Christ, and that always produces the fruits listed above.

A Final Note

If the topic is an emotional one, the three steps above may requires three separate conversation.  One to identify the problem, one to brainstorm solutions and a third to choose an option to try.  There is nothing wrong with breaking these into three different discussions as you work through your issue.  In fact, many therapist recommend that very thing.

Preparation

We have learned over the years that before a meal we need to prepare our food to be cooked. If we wash it first, the food taste better, it is cleaner, and therefore healthier after removing the dirt, grime, and possible diseases that come with harvested crops.
We have also learned, the hard way at times, that a surgeon needs to prepare before performing a surgery. Again, we have figured out that if we wash the dirt, grime, and possible diseases off of the hands before the surgery, the risk is a lot lower that the patient will be infected with bacteria or worse and have a harder time recovering, if they recover at all.
A teacher, before presenting a lesson, should prepare the lesson. Reading over it, making notes, making sure the audience will understand the information being presented.
With each of these examples one can easily see the benefits of taking time to prepare for the tasks at hand. Why is it, when it comes to marriage, that we do so little to prepare. The bible says in Ephesians 5:26 for husbands to make your wives holy and clean by washing her with the word. We should be open and communicate with our spouses often and intimately. We should share in the daily decisions that are presented to us. Be a student of your spouse, learn your spouses love language and talk to them in that language so they understand and receive the message. Prepare for the tasks at hand. We know there is an enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy our marriages. Put on the armor of God that He has given us to use. Help your spouse each morning be ready to enter the day. Encourage them with who they are in Christ. If we will help our spouses each day to face the day at hand, we will increase intimacy and closeness in the relationship.   More victories and fewer defeats. I believe it is well worth the preparation to get the benefits of the results, what about you?

Fighting the Good Fight – Repair Attempts

After three plus decades of marriage research John Gottman, from the University of Washington, was able to identify a number of strategies that help when couples are already engaged in a fight.  One of those strategies involves repair attempts.