Heirlooms (#3): Choppy Water, When You and Your Spouse Disagree
Anyone who tells you that they never disagree with their spouse is lying—to you, their spouse, or themselves. It is simply impossible for two individuals with distinct personalities and different backgrounds to agree on every issue that arises. Like it or not, disagreement is the side-kick of honesty. Expect it. Embrace it. Prepare for it.
The following heirlooms are tips for handling disagreement. They have saved my sanguine husband and my choleric self more grief than I can begin to estimate.
4. Don’t argue. Advice offered by a family friend of Todd’s, Tom Drake, on our wedding day. I believe the exact words he spoke were, “It takes two to argue. When one of you gets mad, the other one just walk away. They’ll get over it.” Great advice as long as the one who walks away doesn’t do so in a huff and necessary conversations actually do happen once everyone is calm. Postponing a delicate conversation gives both of you a chance to think not only about what you want to say, but also about the effect your words might have on your spouse and the health of your relationship. It can prevent hurt feelings and the subsequent need for apologies.
5. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Advice heard in Bible study at the OSU Baptist Student Union before our wedding. Don’t play word games with your spouse. Using sarcasm, the silent treatment, foul language, threats, exaggeration, and/or guessing games to gain the upper hand against the one you love is foolish and damaging, like slashing your own tires.
* Think before you speak.
* Say what needs to be said and ONLY what needs to be said.
* Choose your words carefully and make sure that what your spouse heard is what you actually said.
* Clarify with patience when necessary.
* Invite your spouse to ask questions so that there is no misunderstanding and give sincere answers.
* End important conversations only when both of you are satisfied. If necessary, agree to continue the conversation at a later time, but determine when that will be before walking away.
Try as you might, there is no way to delete your words once they are spoken. Your spouse may forgive you when you say things you shouldn’t, but the audio track will exist in their head forever. If you think the enemy won’t dig it out and play it for them from time to time, you are naïve.
Establish boundaries and procedures together now, before you find yourselves in choppy water. As many have learned the hard way, it’s too late to blow up the life raft once the storm hits.
To be continued…