Thursday, January 11, 2007The Rules of Engagement
My husband's current pastime has been a bad influence on me. I noticed this when in a recent long argument we had I used a football analogy to explain it: "We are just too evenly matched... at this rate we'll just keep going into overtime."
Last I heard the top three reasons for divorce had to do with disagreements over money, sex and childraising. I wholeheartedly encourage arguing with your spouse! It can be very healthy to unearth feelings and expectations and understandings that are operating under the surface of day-to-day life. I mean this in a way that takes into consideration the "rules" of arguing. I would add to the list I'm about to post that we must focus on not making mountains out of mole-hills... and to not go to sleep angry. Every couple married more than a couple months realizes that they need to pick their battles. However, it's also important not to let things accumulate until he casually mentions "Honey, my mashed potatoes are cold" and you blow up and throw the whole darn pot in his face. Constant communication is key as we all probably know. When work or family or outside commitments take time away from you as a couple, try very hard to take even just 20 minutes of catch-up time. Turn off the TV and boil some tea water and sit at the table and just talk.
A few years ago, I saw this list from Marty and Kristine Franklin about Fair Fighting. I was in a militant state of mind when I read it, so I reprinted it... signed it, asked my husband to do the same and posted it on the fridge. The list is long gone now but the effects are still present in our marriage... well, we shout and get sarcastic a bit more than we should sometimes, but things are much better now than the way they were in our rocky newlywed days. Especially useful for our purposes has been abiding by rules 9-11.
1.We are on the same side. We are a team. The goal is not for me to win. The goal is to solve the problem and to love you better.
2.Your feelings matter to me even if they are very different from mine. I will not judge your feelings. I will try to understand them and I will try to help you understand mine.
3.I will not shout, throw, or slam anything.
4.I will not be sarcastic, call you names, or swear.
5.I will never threaten or even hint at the possibility of divorce. We are in this together for life. If I need space to think, cool off, or pray, I'll ask for it and go to another room. I will not leave the house in anger.
6.I will not ascribe motives to your actions. I cannot read your mind and won't try.
7.I will keep quiet when you talk and listen to everything you say.
8.I will stick with this discussion for as long as it takes. If we can't finish right now, I will make a date in the very near future to pick it up again. I will not leave problems unresolved.
9.I will not give you the silent treatment. I will do my best to express my thoughts and feelings so you can understand. I will not clam up. I will not pout or manipulate through guilt.
10.I will ask for clarification when I don't understand you. I will not jump to conclusions.
11.I will not throw old sins in your face.
12.I will apologize quickly if I break any of the above rules and I will try to do better as we go along.
13. I will admit when I am wrong. I will say I'm sorry. I will ask for your forgiveness.
14.If the children overhear us I will apologize to each of them and explain that married people argue even when they love each other very much. I will assure them that I love you and that our family is not in any danger whatsoever. I will never make you out to be the bad guy.
15.If we can't solve a problem on our own in a reasonable amount of time, I will agree to outside help.