ECRS: Early Conflict Response System!

I’m often asked about the book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight, which I co-authored with my husband, Ron. It released a year ago this week. People are interested— was it hard to collaborate with your spouse? What they really want to know is: “Did you fight while writing it?” It’s a fair question.

Having written two books on my own, this was an entirely different process. As co-authors, our goal was to collaborate. Meaning we had to find common ground as we created the content. Did I mention the topic was marital conflict?

We knew it might be a challenge. The process of talking about conflict had the potential to create conflict. So we developed a process – a plan – to move forward as a unit. It worked, and we delivered the book to the publisher on time. Hurray! High five!

Once the book was released, I had a moment when it hit me: we’d be interviewed together. Radio. Television. Print. When I was a solo flyer, I knew where I wanted the discussion to go, how to get there, and what to say. But, as much as I love this man, managing him—and what he says or does—has not been successful. No doubt, I’ve tried (and still occasionally try), but my record is dismal. He’s experienced similar results when the table is turned. We’re independent, strong willed – and completely committed to one another. It makes an interesting life.

I thought through all the possibilities, all the potential interview disasters that might await us. Stepping on one another’s comments, interrupting one another, and heaven forbid, correcting or disputing what the other said. I did mention the topic was marital conflict, right?

Once again, we created a plan: we assigned topics each would cover and defer to that assignee so we weren’t stepping on toes. The first few interviews were a little bumpy, but overall, went surprisingly well. We also created a sign – our own personal code that signaled, “I’d like to take that question,” or “you’re running on too long with your answer.” A simple knee bump. Hopefully under the table, unseen by the interviewer.

It worked. So, okay, occasionally I ignored a knee bump. Or he did. Or worse, the bump gave way to a look and a tighter than comfortable squeeze of the hand. But all in all – it worked and we enjoyed the process far more than we ever imagined.

It’s affirming to hear from couples who have found the book helpful. Some learned new ways to deal with old issues. Others, identified new strategies to be proactive, so that when conflict hunted them down, they can respond, not react.

A plan can help you prepare for success. It’s important in so many of life’s opportunities: getting married, having a baby, or buying a home. A plan provides a path forward when conflict comes calling.

What are the areas in your relationships that can create conflict? How might you be able to plan and prepare for a smoother, if not seamless, process when it comes knocking? Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

  • Identify the potential stress inducers. What’s your track record for winging it? How’d that work out? Typical pressure point areas include money, sex, the in-laws, and childrearing. There are many more, but those are the Big Four. If these topics produce conflict, acknowledge it. At what point does it go south? Once you’ve figured out where you got off a peaceful path, stop next time you get there. Ask yourself, “how can we work together on this?”

 

  • Ask, don’t tell. Use open ended questions to explore options, possibilities, and solutions. “What’s the best way to approach this?” or “How can we make this work that works for both of us?” Open-ended questions can lead to new and creative ways to deal with old problems.

 

  • Take a time out. It’s not just for temperamental toddlers. When you realize the heat is rising, take a break before it escalates. A simple, “I need to step away for 15 minutes,” can slow a discussion that’s spiraling into non-productive—or damaging—territory. Take time to gather your thoughts, and manage your emotions so they don’t end up managing you.

A conflict response plan can provide a path to peace. Give it a shot—what’ve you got to lose?

Find the book here: http://amzn.to/1ULkaJT

So You Wrote a Book With Your Husband . . .?

Couple looking at a photo albumSeveral people have recently asked me about the new book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight,  and what it was like to co-author it with my husband, Ron. After writing the first two books myself, it was, well—different.

Ron has been very involved in all of the writing I’ve done in the past several years. He was on tap to listen to the read through of each chapter and offer his insights and feedback. He often helped me connect specific passages of scripture to the content of an article or chapter. Immensely helpful. His input was a huge value and often helped strengthen what I had created. But the decision to make a revision or add a new twist he’d suggested, was mine. Alone.

This was an entirely different process. As co-authors, our goal was to collaborate. Meaning we had to find common ground as we created the content. Did I mention the topic was marital conflict?

We developed a process to move forward as a unit. We agreed to discuss the chapter content, review survey and research results, make notes jointly, identify examples and appropriate scripture references, develop tools and application activities. I would then sit down at the computer and write the chapter. It sounded like a solid plan. On paper it looked good. And in the first chapter or two, it worked well.

Then we made an important discovery. As each new chapter began we’d reminisce about an occasion and discuss how it had transpired. Details. Who said what. How it went. We remembered the details vividly. But we often vividly remember it differently. Was it just that 40 years of experiences were difficult to remember with clarity? No. We each had crystal clear recall. Just not the same recall.

If it hadn’t been important to the writing process, it would have been humorous. And looking back on it all, it was pretty funny. Many of the topics, now some twenty or thirty years old seemed so trivial. Why did we let them become issues? Stubbornness? More time than common sense? Perhaps.

Others were more important: how we’d discipline our boys, deal with financial issues, or how busy schedules impacted time for romance and our sex life. Big stuff.

Apparently, we’ve worked it out. The details may escape us today, but we found agreement about the trivial and the significant.

The exercise of reviewing our four decades of life together was challenging at times, but a huge blessing. We recounted the times God came through, granted favor, instructed, corrected, and developed us as believers and as a couple. What an affirmation of His faithfulness. At 19 when we married, we were greener than grass about everything that life would demand of us. The gift of a young marriage is that we grew up, and grew up in Him together.

This was new for us as a twosome, and we learned a lot – some of it the hard way. So here are a few tips for those thinking about establishing a co-author project:

  • Vision. Talk about it, write it out, and revise it until it’s clear and one about which you both can be in full agreement. The Bible remind us in Habakkuk 2:2: “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” (ESV).
  • Listen. My favorite definition of listening is the willingness to be changed by what you hear. We all have our own opinions and thoughts about the right way to do something. Your writing partner may have a different approach. Remember that different is not always wrong, it’s just different. Be open enough to hear other ideas. God brought you together as partners, so partner together.
  • Pray together. As a Christian writing team, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of craft and omit the cross in the process.
  • Communicate frequently. Set regular times to discuss, imagine, review and edit together. Creating a schedule can help establish a routine and allow each party to protect time on the calendar. In person is best, but if doing it remotely, try Skype or one of the other online meeting sites – Zoom is great – and it’s free.

When was the last time you and your mate looked back together over the collected years you’ve accumulated? A walk together down memory lane can be a great way to remind yourself there’s a lot to be grateful for in both the magic and the tragic. None of it’s wasted if you learned from the experiences and moved forward together. He can use it all.

Will we write another book together? Only time will tell.

 

If You Can’t Say Something Nice …

Be QuietToday is National Say Something Nice Day. That would make my mother happy. She lived that theory “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” Easier said than done.

If you’re married, you already know it can be tough duty. Especially in the face of what my husband, Ron, and I call, “an intense moment of fellowship.” When it gets heated, something nice is not always the first thing that rolls off my tongue.

And the tongue is often the problem with conflict, isn’t it? The Word gives us that heads up. “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way,” James 3:2 (NLT).

You mean if I could manage my mouth, I’d also be able to resist the call of Cappuccino Crunch ice cream? Now there’s some motivation!

Over the years I’ve become more aware of the need to be intentional with Ron when conflict arises. Mostly because the Spirit of the Lord has been persistent to point out missed opportunities, little slips, and major mishaps of the mouth. I’m working on it.

Just remember we do have an enemy, but it’s not our spouse! Marriage is worth the effort and it’s always worth fighting for.

So celebrate the opportunity to say something nice today. Smile  when you say it. A kiss and a hug for your sweetheart can help seal the deal. And if you really want to make an impression – write it down. Slip it in his pocket or tuck it in her purse to discover when least expected. It might just make your honey’s day.

And it will make your Mama so proud!

Want more help on this topic? Our new book, Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! releases June 21. But you can pre-order it and enjoy a 37% discount on the cover price. Find it here: Book Deal  Don’t delay – this special offer is only good through June 20, 2016!