In Part 2 of this series, uncover two more steps to having meaningful communication with your spouse.
Step 3: Fight Fair
Not only do we need to learn to value each other, but we MUST learn to deal with conflict WELL! Let’s be honest, we do more damage in the way we fight than we ever care to admit. Many of our feelings towards each other stems from how we have dealt with our differences and conflicts. The words we have said and the way we have looked at each other in anger can do damage for years and years to come.
Fighting unfairly stems from unresolved conflict. Rarely do we resolve conflict, so every fight brings back up the hurt and pain from previous arguments. One always wants to win or be heard so daggers begin to fly, and the damage is done. This was true in our marriage. One of us was a fighter and the other just shut down. We decided we had to learn to resolve conflict and stop doing more damage than good.
We came up with a code word that was spoken by one of us when the fight was getting out of control. The key to the code word is not something that is defaming or ugly, but pleasant. Both of us like Diet Coke so that became our code word. When the code word was spoken, we knew that we were stopping the argument before things got out of hand. There were rules to that code word that we chose to abide by, and this taught us how to not only fight fairly but to resolve!
Rules to the Code Word:
- Once the code word comes out, this conversation is over for the time being.
- We will take a time out.
- We will come back and talk about it more level-headed before the day is over.
- We will come to a resolve.
This was a game changer in our marriage. Until you do this, you will never be able to go deeper. So come on… get you a CODE WORD!
Step 4: Give freedom to feel
Everybody has feelings, but do we have the freedom to really feel? I think anger is a feeling we are comfortable to express, but what about feeling sad, disappointed, fearful or anxious? With those feelings, tears normally accompany them.
When I was growing up, if I cried, my Mom would say, “You better stop that crying or I will give you something to cry about.” I know some of you heard the same thing. What you didn’t realize is at a young age, you began to keep your feelings to yourself because you believed no one cared or had time for your feelings. People just want you to suck it up and get over it.
Learn how to allow and open up your emotions to each other. As a woman, I know I feel all the time. Women are far more emotional than men, however, men have feelings too. As Steve and I explored this, we recognized that sometimes the loneliness that set into our marriage was not physical loneliness, but emotional loneliness. Being able to share emotions with each other connects you like nothing else.
Life is hard, and many of us have experienced heartache in our life. If those hurts just sit inside of you, they will eventually grow a hard heart. God wants us to help open each other’s hearts. Marriage should be the safest place for us to fall. We must create that in order for those we love to have the freedom to feel.
I remember years ago, my daughter in law experienced a miscarriage with our first grandchild. It was devastating to them and to our whole family. Society has conditioned us to move on from those hurts and get over them quickly. That is not how the heart works. The heart must take time to grieve the tough battles of life and we need a safe place to fall. Marriage is where we should feel comfortable to fall, but many times it is not.
With our upbringing, we had to retrain ourselves how to feel. You may think this is odd, but this is what we did. We bought a big, overstuffed chair that holds two people. We bought that chair to begin opening our feelings up and to lean on each other. Literally, to lay our heads on each other and feel the warmth and care of someone who could handle our hearts. It worked! Slowly but surely, we became comfortable with holding each other’s hearts in our hands, learning to be compassionate and caring when the other was struggling. What we did not know would happen, was the emotional intimacy we were both longing for began to happen because of our willingness and safety to allow each other to share our feelings openly.
Can you become comfortable with tears? Can you be ok when others cry? Grieving is key to a healthy heart. The greatest gift you can give to your spouse is the freedom to let them feel, cry, and talk about it.
Steve & Debbie Wilson
Steve and Debbie Wilson are the founders of Marriage Matters Now, a non-profit marriage ministry that has reached couples for over 25 years. Their 43 years of marriage coupled with passion and a heart to see marriages healed and healthy has driven this ministry all over the nation as they speak at numerous conferences, have spent hours counseling couples, and have written two books.