Sunday, February 21, 2010

Keeping Foxes Out Of Your Marriage

Steven and I experienced another Sunday under the spotlight at Five Stones this morning.  Once again, it was as if Pastor Greg had a hidden camera in our house and preached a sermon directly targeted at our marriage and ways we could improve our communication with one another.  So again, I figured if his words of wisdom are valuable to me, they might be valuable to other married couples - or really anyone in any kind of relationship - romantic or not.

Pastor Greg cautioned against four "foxes" that are detrimental to marriage - allow these attributes to fester in your marriage too long and you just might end up divorced or in a contemptuous, love-empty marriage.  Like a menacing fox in a beautiful garden, these acts of malice and destruction wreak havoc on our marriages.

  • Criticism - this act targets a particular person in an accusatory manner.  For example - "You always...", "I can't stand it when you...."  When you begin criticizing your spouse, you immediately put them on the defensive - instead of addressing their actions, you address them.  It isn't that you want them to change their action, it's that you want them to change themselves.  Instead of addressing them - try to address their actions.  Use phrases such as "I feel XXX when you..." or "It makes me frustrated/concerned/upset when..."  This will help your partner understand what they are doing that causes you to become upset without making them feel attacked or belittled.

  • Contempt - contempt manifests itself as an attack through harsh words, tones or mannerisms.  Phrases such as "You idiot!", "How could you be so stupid!?!",  "What were you thinking?"  Once again, this fox causes your partner to feel attacked.  Instead of name calling or going for the "low blow", take a time out.  Breathe - focus on what the fight is really about - don't lash out and make things personal.

  • Defensiveness  - this fox is a direct result of criticism and contempt.  When a partner becomes defensive it becomes even more difficult to address the problem.  We become less likely to listen and communicate clearly - the purpose of the fight is now to prove ourselves, prove our worth - the fight is no longer about the original issue, it has become personal

  • Stonewalling - stonewalling also occurs as a result of criticism and contempt.  This happens when a partner shuts down completely.  When a fight becomes too much, one partner may retreat emotionally and all lines of communication close.  Facial features go blank, responses become non existent and it becomes impossible to reach an understanding or settle the argument.
When Pastor Greg first started talking about criticism I thought, "Oh yeah - that's right Greg - you keep talking to Steven because he is WAY too critical."  Almost everything he said about criticism mirrored Steven's actions in our big fights.  I sat there with a big smile on my face feeling a little self righteous.  Then Greg moved onto contempt.  Oh no!  Just keep talking about criticism!  He pretty much put a HUGE nail in my shiney self righteous coffin.  I resort to name calling and low blows far too often when our fights get out of hand (this could be one of the main reasons our fights get out of hand!)  I know exactly where Steven's sensitive buttons are and I go for the kill shot.

Not only did Pastor Greg call us out regarding our unfair fighting tactics, he also described how each of us respond perfectly.  Steven becomes incredibly defensive.  My harsh words leave him feeling as if he must prove his worth as a man, prove that he is a good husband and it isn't pretty when he is on the defense.  I on the other hand resort to stonewalling.  When things become too hot to handle, I shut down completely.  Although I am more than happy to contribute to the heated argument, I rarely am willing to take the steps necessary to make amends - I'm too exhausted, too fragile, too hurt.  So the fight ends. I refuse to speak anymore, I retreat to another room and 10-15 minutes later we pretend as if World War III never happened - we're magically happy again.

Mind you - this doesn't happen often.  Thankfully, we are learning to communicate well enough that these knock down dragouts happen less and less frequently, but when they do, they always end badly. 

Once again, I feel like we have both learned a little something about each other.  We are committed to "fighting fair".  I look forward to hearing what Pastor Greg has to say next week - I feel as if this is the best free marriage counseling I've ever gotten!  If you want to hear Pastor Greg's sermon for yourself, feel free to visit Five Stones Online


Stephanie Hartman said...

That was very helpful thanks for the great post.

Ams said...

That is all GREAT advice... I love when I feel like a sermon was built for me :)

Mrs.Cass said...

this is great advice! thanks for sharing!:)

Mateya said...

Thank you for this! I really appreciate you sharing. Especially because I feel like this is a huge reflection of how Robbie and I fight except our roles are reversed with you. He is the one who shuts down...we wait it out and then pretend like it didn't happen!

Amber said...

That's great advice! I think all couples experience those kinds of arguments sometimes.

Katie F said...

I left you a little something over at my blog!

Jules said...

fighting fair... but that's not the easiest, most self gratifying, in the moment what i want to do!
Needless to say, that's something I am trying to work on myself. I like to think I'm blameless and know exactly what to say to get Greg where it hurts.

Thanks for sharing!!

Ashleigh said...

I enjoyed this post! Sounds like it was a good sermon, thanks for sharing!
Your Doggies are just precious! Love those faces!

Allison said...

That's so wonderful that you had such an eye-opening experience. It's not often that we can seriously look back and reflect on what we are doing wrong. Good for you! New follower-You look to be such a sweetie!

Kelly said...

This is a great post. Several years ago (When your dad was still at Stough), Wes and I had an "encounter" on the way to church. The kind where he got a little road rage, with me and my child in the car, and that sent me on a mommy rage. We finally made it to church alive and I am not kidding, it was like Chris was in the back seat of the car listening to our entire argument on the way. We still had not spoken, but I swear he was sliding down in his seat. Now honestly I wasn't feeling as guilty as he was, but that morning changed our relationship for life!

Tori and Chad said...

I am so glad they have a link! I have been wishing we could find a church like that so at least this way we can get some of the same wisdom.

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