Fight the Good Fight – Unity

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We have discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  influence and soothing.  This week we will wrap up this series by considering the overall goal of your fight.  When a fight kicks off there is a gap between the time something happens to anger you and your response.  In this gap you have a choice to make.  Will I fight for getting what I want or will I fight for the unity of my marriage?  When the wrong choice us made, especially over the long haul, it is disastrous to a marriage.

In marriage, we are called to sacrificially serve one another in a way that builds unity in a marriage.  We are called to submit to one another looking out for the best interests of the other.  We are called to humility; admitting wrongs and asking for forgiveness when needed.  We are called to pursue each other in ways that show how much the other person means to us.  We are called to “die” to self and seek the other person’s needs before we seek our own.  When we do this we turn towards one another instead of away from each other.  We understand that when we fight, we are fighting for our marriage,  not to get our own way.  We recognize that our spouse is not our enemy but is our ally.

If you get married you will have trouble (1 Cor 7:28).  God will often use your marriage to change you more and more into the image of His son, Jesus.  That growth is not an easy process and we often fight against it by fighting with our spouse.  Additionally, you have an enemy that hates your marriage.  Satan stands against your marriage as it is a reminder of God’s relationship with His people.  Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.”  Though selfishness, pride, hatred, disunity and Satan all stand against your marriage, they are no threat to the God of the universe that is holding your marriage together.  In unity, with each other and with God, we can stand against the powers of this world that seek to undermine our marriages.  In unity we can stand together, lifting the shield of faith against the arrows of the enemy, and overcome any attempt to undermine our marriage.  In unity, we can turn towards each other, rely on each other, and bear each others burdens instead of turning away from each other and accepting defeat.

This mindset requires the power of the Holy Spirit and a commitment to following his lead.  Considering this before you get into a fight helps frame the fight in a way that builds your marriage instead of undermining it.  Being thankful for the blessing you have been given in marriage on the good days helps you remember the blessings on the bad days.  Listening to the Holy Spirit at the beginning of a fight helps resolve the issue more effectively.

The Musical Date – A Date Night at Home

Date Night Doesn’t Have to be  Challenging

Need a quick date night idea for this weekend that has minimal cost and big impact.  Spend an evening creating a playlist of the songs of your marriage.  Of course, the longer you have been married the more music you have to choose from.  However, even if you have only been together for a few months this date will work for you.

Order your favorite Pizza to be delivered or grab one you can throw in the oven when you get home.  Minimize distractions (turn off the TV, set phone to Airplane Mode, lock the kids in the closet) and look through your music collection (playlists, cassette, 8 tracks, records).   Start with two songs from your days of dating and then review music in three year increments until you have a list of music that reflect different periods of your relationship.  You may have a few from your dating days, a few from your newlywed days, a few from the early years of raising children; you get the idea.  Next, start “whittling down” your list until you have 12 to 15 songs.  Once you have your songs selected download them and create a new playlist on your phone.

The act of reviewing this music will bring back memories and make for a fun evening.  Remember to keep the distractions to a minimum and spend some time thinking about where you were living and what you were doing when these songs came out.  Here are a few of ours:

Take Me Down – Alabama

Feels So Right – Alabama

Love In The First Degree – Alabama

Faithfully – Journey

Wonderful World – Sam Cook

Unforgettable – Nat King Cole

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals.

Fields of Gold – Sting

Everything – Wasis Diop

Keeper of the Stars – Tracy Byrd

World on Fire – Sarah McLaughlan

Come Away With Me – Norah Jones

Moon Dance – Carmel

Duet – Penny and Sparrow

Use the comments to share yours.

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

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)