With my book on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships off to the publisher, I am beginning to turn my attention to a new topic: marital conflict. Today I’m kicking it off. Would love to hear your take on how you deal with it – or not.
By Deb DeArmond
“Yes, I know. Every marriage has conflict,” she said, somewhat impatiently. “But, how do you fight?”
I wasn’t really sure what she was asking me, but I was aware that every eye in the room was on us. My husband looked at me and we grinned at one another. The couples group we were addressing seemed pretty serious.
“Well, occasionally there’s a slammed door or two. Volume may go up, and often the dogs will run out of the room. But we always try to follow the rules,” I replied.
Rules? Rules for having an argument? Absolutely. It’s how we’ve stayed married and happy for 37 years.
All’s fair in love and war is baloney. Dangerous stuff. It’s a license to put on the gloves, leave kindness (and good judgment) behind and take no prisoners. All so that you can make your point, snatch the prize and come out the winner in the moment. But that’s the problem with the approach. You may win in the moment and end up sacrificing the life of the relationship.
“So what are your rules?” someone asked.
“They’re pretty simple,” I replied. “No name calling, nothing physical (slammed doors asidE), no dragging up the past with a “you always” approach. Oh, and no one is allowed to get in the car and drive off. If one of us needs some space and wants time to think (or cool off) before we continue, we ask permission to take a break with a specific time commitment to return to the discussion.”
They were writing this stuff down. But I understood.
You see, no one handed us the rules when we got married. We had to fight through a lot of unpleasant moments to discover them. We weren’t always proud of how we handled conflict. And neither was God.
The rules surfaced over time. They kind of revealed themselves through those moments after an ugly interaction when we prayed for forgiveness – from one another and from God. “It really hurt when you…” or “I was fine until you…”?The debrief was important to help us understand when the conflict stopped being healthy and took on a destructive tone.
And don’t misunderstand: we haven’t arrived at a perfect record. We sometime slip back into bad behavior. But our mantra is, “If you have to fight, fight fair.”
All’s fair in love and war may sound like a good idea when you need permission to go all in and let it all fly. But ask yourself, “can I really afford that trip?”
So…. What’s your style when it comes to what I like to call those “intense moments of fellowship?” Some might call it a fight. Others an argument, or perhaps, in your home, you agree to disagree. Stay tuned – a new online survey (anonymous, of course) will be announced soon and I’d love to hear from you!