How many of you remember your first fight as a married couple? I remember Alex and my first fight. It’s funny, I can still remember how angry we both were in that moment but honestly looking back it was nothing worth arguing about at all. It all boiled down to stress and miscommunication. We were not necessarily mad at each other but we were mad at the situation we had put ourselves in.
Let me set the scene for you.
Alex and I are newly married. Things are going great! We decided that we wanted to have a cookout at our house as a thank you for our wedding party. It was a win-win. We would honor our friends for being apart of our day and we would all get to hang out and eat Alex’s hamburgers. (He cooks the best hamburgers on the face of the planet- I kid you not.) What could possibly go wrong with this? As it would turn out a lot could. There were some things that Alex and I did not know about ourselves or each other yet but we were about to find out.
- I had never host anything at my house and I personally was unaware of the OCD cleaning Nazi I would turn into an Alex was not aware of this either.
- Alex, as it would turn out, had the same OCD/Nazi tendencies when it came to how he wanted his yard to look during the cookout.
- We both tend to wait until the last minute on certain things.
- Alex did not see the house as being super important and I did not see the grass as being super important.
We lived 45 minutes away from everything at the time and we lived (and still do) very busy lives. It was the night before the cookout. We went to the store and bought all the food we needed and had come home to finish cleaning and getting ready. At this point it is 9:45 at night and the house (in my opinion) was not clean enough and Alex had mowed the grass but had not had the chance to weed-eat at all. We still have to prep the food and tie up some loose ends in the house. Alex announces that he is going to go finish the grass. It’s 9:45 at night! So I do what any loving wife would do. I go outside to tell him how ridiculous that is and to inform him of all the things we have to do and that the house and food were way more important than weed-eating. Honestly, looking back I don’t think things would have escalated so quickly had the weed-eater not chosen that moment in time to not work. So as we were having a “discussion” on the importance level of all the things we have to do, Alex was frantically yanking on the chord trying to get the weed-eater to start. He was getting more and more frustrated with every yank of the chord and he was telling me to stop until finally, he had enough. He took the weed-eater and launched it out into the darkness! We looked at each other at that moment and I blurted out, “Well, heck of a whole lot of good that did!” (I’m from Alabama, don’t judge me.)
Friends, things took a hard negative turn from there. I think I will sum up the rest of the “discussion” that followed by saying it was loud and would fit right into a Jeff Foxworthy comedy skit. Two people from Alabama in their front yard at 9:45 at night screaming at each other. It ended with me going into the house mad and crying and Alex searching the woods for his weed-eater.
Let’s go back in time a little here. When we took pre-martial counseling our pastor’s wife would always start off the sessions by asking us if we had argued yet. We always answered no and she always told us that we needed too. It seemed so ridiculous to us at the time. Why do we “need” to argue? She explained that it was not that she wanted us to fight per se but that there were certain things that you would only find out about the other person through conflict. She told us that we needed to know how the other person fought. That way you could then, in turn, learn how to fight fairly as a couple. After our first argument, it all made sense. She was right, there are certain things that you do not learn about your spouse until there is conflict. I might also add there are certain things that you do not know about yourself until there is conflict.
Although we did not handle this particular situation with grace we learned a lot of things about ourselves and each other from that one argument.
- We both want perfection in certain areas but we did not agree on what areas needed the perfection.
- We were not even aware of how we would handle certain situations and stresses much less how the other person would handle them.
- We both had the problem of procrastination.
- We both spoke words first then thought them through afterward
We had a decision to make at that moment. We could just overlook what we had learned about each other and continue to repeat the same arguments over and over again or we could use this information to communicate better and grow together.
For a while, we choose to overlook. We have never fought a lot but it seemed like for awhile the arguments we were having were always about the same things. It was as if we were actors and we each had our lines that we repeated every time. Slowly we started learning about each other and things started changing. We are a work in progress and we still do not always get it right but our main focus is to always fight fair!
So how does one fight fair?
I have recently started reading the book “Praying Circles Around Your Marriage” by Joel and Nina Schmidgall. It is a spinoff of the book “The CircleMaker” which tells the story of Honi the CircleMaker who’s prayer saved a generation of people. He drew a circle on the ground and refused to get out of the circle until the Lord sent rain. This new book is all about praying circles around certain areas in your marriage. One of the areas it focuses on is how we handle conflict. I want to take a few minutes and talk about certain things that Alex and I have done over the years that has helped us and also touch on some of the things that they talk about in the book that I think will help us in the future.
In any relationship, there is going to be conflict. We are all imperfect people and we all have different personalities and triggers. Marriage forces two imperfect people into a small space so of course conflicts will arise. The trick is not “not arguing” the trick is to argue well. You may ask how in the world do I do that?
Communicate Communicate Communicate
I have always heard that opposites attract. This is definitely true with Alex and I. We have a lot of things in common but there are some areas that we are totally different. I am super new to the Enneagram but Alex and I have recently taken the test. I am a 5 on the Enneagram which basically means I recharge by having alone time and expressing my feeling is not really ever on my to-do list. Being able to stay un-attached is kinda like a superpower for 5s. Alex is a 2 on the Enneagram which means he gains his strength from being around people and helping them. He is very emotional and does not mind expressing those emotions. Being involved and needed is their superpower. Because we are totally different in this area communication has been something that has not always been easy for us.
Communication is so vital in any relationship. It is something that needs to be worked on daily. A lot of arguments can be avoided by just learning how your spouse communicates. Sometimes arguments are really just miscommunication or a lack of communication. When we first got married we did not realize that we communicated differently. I can not tell you the times that we would disagree about something and I would just shut down. It’s not that I wanted to shut down but I just had trouble communicating with Alex what I was feeling. Alex would ask me questions and when I could not give him the answer we would both become frustrated. I could not seem to formulate my words and he could not understand why that was a problem for me. Looking back at most of our early arguments, communication was the issue not whatever we disagreed on.
Can I just reiterate again that we are a work in progress! We still are two imperfect people trying to walk through this life together in peace. Below are some of the things we do now to help us communicate better. Hopefully, these will help you like they have helped us.
- Start sentences with an “I feel” statement and keep them super simple.
- For example- tonight we were talking about buying something for our house. I made the comment, “I don’t feel like it is necessary at this time however I do see how it could be beneficial to us in the future.”
- By doing this I can not only give my opinion but I can also let Alex know that I hear what he is saying as well. That way it does not come out like I am totally against him.
- Pause and processes instead of instantly confronting the situation.
- Alex has gotten where he says, “ok” then he pauses for a second after I make a comment about something. Usually, that “ok” is followed by a simple question addressing what I said. Or it is followed by a comment that furthers the conversation.
- Remember Alex does not have a problem communicating his feelings. However, I think this helps both of us. He is slowing down and really listening and by not confronting me head on I can progress better.
- Use the “what you said, what I heard” method
- This one is great! Did you know that two people could hear the exact same sentence and get two completely different meanings from it? I did not until after I got married. A friend of ours introduced us to this awesome little trick.
- For example- Alex recently bought a car. When we were talking about making this purchase we were going over all the pros and cons of it. All the things that Alex was telling me seemed good and we were talking about the finances. At the end of the conversation, Alex looked at me and said, “Ok so I am hearing you say that as long as the finances are correct I can buy the car, is that correct?” By asking me this question, he gave me the ability to affirm the situation or to restate what I was trying to say. This has helped us in arguments and in just everyday decisions we have to make. This takes the assumption out of your communication. It takes the “but you say” out.
- Set aside time to talk every week.
- This is one that I learned from the book. They suggested performing “routine maintenance”. Just like a car performs better when we take care of it so will our marriage. If communication is an area you struggle with, make it a point to practice communication every week. Pick a day and a time and talk to each other. This is a time where you are free to talk about anything.
- This time will help you to learn how each other communicate and grow closer together as you get better at communicating with each other.
Make some Pre-Argument Decisions
Sometimes we are just not going to be able to completely keep our cool when we disagree, I get that however there are certain things that we can agree on in advance to never do! By being intentional up front and having ground rules in place you will be able to fight fairly.
- No name calling
- Regardless of what you are disagreeing about name calling should never be used. We should never belittle our spouse because their opinion is different from ours.
- No physical fighting
- We should never lay hands on our spouse with the intent on harming them. This goes for both men and women. Typically men get the heat for this one but there are ladies out there that are guilty of this as well. Physical abuse is not ok, ever! If this is something that you are dealing with, get help now! Don’t for a second believe that the Lord wants us to stay in a dangerous situation.
- No involving other people
- Other people should not be involved in your disagreements with your spouse. Chances are you and your spouse will resolve the conflict and move on, the people that you involve in it may not be able to move on so quickly which will cause other problems down the road. If you feel like you need help with an argument or problem with your spouse seek personally help by going to your pastor or a marriage counselor or your godly mentors but do not involve friends and family.
- Keep your business off social media
- Social media is should not be the battlefield that most people have made it. I am not exactly sure why people think airing their dirty laundry or brutally attacking someone over social media is ok. Calling your spouse out on social media will never bring peace and harmony in your marriage, ever.
- Give space but gain closure
- After both of you have spoken your piece give each other a little room to process. Go to separate rooms and process what has been said and pray about it. Take a few days if needed but always go back and find some closure. You may not find ultimate closure at that moment but find some common ground and then build from there.
Pray Circles Around Your Conflict
Another thing that the book says is that we should pray circles around our spouse and ask the Lord to help us with conflict. There is always an underlying cause behind the conflict. Pray and ask the Lord to give you insight into the real reason behind the problem instead of reacting to only what you see on the surface. Also be willing to learn and grow from the conflict. There is always something that can be learned by both people. Pray that future conflict can be avoided altogether. Pray for the wisdom not to say and do things intentionally that would instigate an argument. Use what you have learned about your spouse to grow your relationship not divide it.
I’m sure you have heard the metaphor “drawn a line in the sand”. Typically when someone says this it means they have made up their minds about something and they are not budging. I want to end this blog by encouraging you not to “draw a line in the sand” with your spouse. Draw a circle around them and cover them in prayer. Cover yourself in prayer. Cover every aspect of your marriage in prayer. Cover every conflict in prayer. Be like Honi, draw a prayer circle around you and your spouse and refuse to get out.
Marriage was God’s idea remember? Ask Him to come into your relationship and help you with every part of it. He is willing and able to help us we just have to invite Him to partner with us! Yes, conflict will come but it does not have to be messy. Closure and growth can happen!
We believe in you and we are praying for you!