They say that marriage is a two-way street. Maybe that explains why there are so many head-on collisions in marriage? Jokes aside, marriage is serious business, and it can be joyful and successful if done right. This week, I want to share with you a few thoughts on effective and satisfying marriage, which I hope will be of help.
The first one my wife and I discovered for ourselves several years ago, although I've since found it referenced in marriage research. I talk for a living. All day long, I'm either doing mediation, marriage coaching, giving workshops, etc. When I come home, the last thing I want to do is talk.
My wife is a quiet person. She's extremely personable, and people are drawn to her, but she doesn't talk all that much during her day. When she comes home what's the first thing she wants to do? Talk.
Do you see a problem here? And a problem it was for quite a while as I would be trying to unwind from a day of engaging with other people and she would want (deservedly so) to engage with me.
We finally agreed that when I came home we would embrace and restate our love for each other, but then I was allowed to have 15 to 30 minutes of down time. Time when I didn't have to talk on the phone or do anything other than veg out. After that time, however, I was to be in full engagement mode, and we could discuss our days or anything else that came up. This has worked remarkably well over the years, and I offer it to you as something to be considered.
Another helpful practice, which we implemented some years ago, is that we agree to not discuss sensitive and conflicting situations after 9 p.m. We realized that when we are both tired and stressed is not the time to take on issues between us. We agree to table whatever the topic is until the next day when we can approach it with fresh minds and clearer perspectives.
You've heard the expression that you should never go to bed angry. Well it's a nice thought, however, it could mean for very late nights, and two people who are already not at their best trying to resolve issues.
That's not where I'd be placing my betting money if you're looking for a pleasant and satisfactory outcome.
I strongly encourage you to adopt a mutually agreed upon time-out signal followed by what could be thought of as a demilitarized zone where combat is strictly forbidden.
Please note, however, that this is a time-out, not a cop-out.
If the issue is important to one then it better be important to both and must be addressed -- just at a time when each can be in a better state from which to discuss calmly and effectively.
And lastly, you need to know that when your spouse is upset -- and they let you know it in a less than loving way -- it is highly likely that they are hurting at that moment.
You have two choices for how to respond. You can either react to the anger, or seek to comfort their pain.
Doing the former, while all too common, is likely to end up in world war 7,522. Doing the latter is likely going to result in more closeness and joy in your marriage.
I'd love to tell you I always respond to my wife's pain, but since she may be reading this, I better not. I can tell you, however, with great joy that there are frequent times when I do. Some time back, I came home and she, having had a very bad day, began to jump on me for all sorts of little things. Rather than striving to defend my "honor," I simply gave her a big hug and asked if she had had a bad day. The result was instantaneous. She apologized for dumping on me, and we were able to have a fine evening together.
Many of you have no idea what would happen if you chose to ignore the attack and address the pain your spouse is feeling. You have no idea because you've likely never tried it.
Now I don't recommend you create strife just so you can put the comfort thing into practice, but I strongly encourage you to choose to do so the next time your mate gets upset with you. The Bible says a soft answer
turns away wrath. You may want to give it a try and experience much more peace and far less strife in your marriage. See you next week.
P.S. I don't claim to know all there is to having a successful marriage, but I have attended numerous workshops over the years and I have met some excellent marriage experts. If you have a specific question or topic you would like me to address in this column please let me know.
If I don't have a good answer, I'm confident I can find someone who does.