May 15 2008
Communication and Calm
A couple nights ago, my wife and I had an intense extended discussion about several points of different perspective, with which we both have very strong emotional connections. Well, I guess some might call that a fight. Two mornings later, I am extremely grateful for two things in particular that I see growing in each of us in our marriage relationship, two foundational elements which I emphasize with my clients in marriage therapy.
It is good for us to openly express our perspectives with one another, even if it leads to a “fight.” It gives us a chance to grow as individuals and as a couple. Just as the muscles in our bodies grow stronger and healthier by being stretched and challenged, so do our attitudes and relationships grow through being pushed beyond our comfort zones. Did I agree with everything my wife said to me in our discussion? No. Did I like everything my wife said to me? No, indeed! (including things I did not and did agree with, I have to admit) Did I need to hear everything she shared with me? Yes, sir! In fact, if I hadn’t let myself get into defensive mode here and there in the conversation, I probably would have heard more things I would have appreciated hearing. But, the truth is I did get defensive at times, and this almost certainly kept our talk from being as productive and healthy as possible. But it was still good, even though we still don’t agree on some things at a rather personal level, and even though I went in and out of defensive mode. It was good because we talked honestly with one another. It was good because we were respectful of one another, despite strong feelings of disagreement. It was good because it wasn’t comfortable, but we went there anyway.
It is also good for us to keep ourselves calm, and to calm ourselves down when we do start to “lose it.” (get upset, get bent out of shape, get emotionally reactive – whatever you want to call it) Even though this discussion stayed relatively calm and respectful, as fights go, I still came away with feelings of frustration, discouragement, even some rising despair. “I’m so sick of fighting about this same old thing!” “If she would just appreciate where I’m coming from, and change accordingly, everything would be great.” “Why did this have to happen when I thought things were going so great? At least, I know I sure have been growing as a better spouse!” Yes, the professional Christian counselor had all these thoughts and more as I headed for bed and got up to face my day yesterday. From talking with my wife, I think she had the same thoughts from her perspective. I am grateful to report that both of us took the time and made the effort over the course of the following day to clear our heads of unhelpful garbage, calm ourselves down, and refocus on what we can do personally to move forward in a way that is best for both of us and our family.
And so, today I am truly thankful for the marital fight, as well as the calm, respectful, personal responsibility my wife and I are showing ourselves and one another. This tells me we can keep growing in the strong marriage we have both enjoyed and appreciated so much for the past almost 12 years. Yes, our anniversary is coming this weekend, and here we had a fight this week. Progress, not perfection – right?