What’s Behind the Argument?

Even as certified Pre-Marital Counselors, Tappy and I still have our arguments. In fact, some of the most heated arguments  have even happened when we were preparing to teach a Marriage class.

It was a weeknight. We had both gotten home from a full days work to sit down at the table and prepare the lesson for the following Saturday night class.

As we went through the material we would plan illustrations to bring the material to life, supplement from other studies we’ve done to offer more practical advise, and we were also creating a power point to be visually engaging for our students.

Power Points are important, but I felt that lesson-planning was becoming very inefficient by the constant pauses to change bullet points, fonts, and colors. After a while my frustration started to come out in my tone, and small remarks under my breath about how I wish Tap would stop working on the power point.

Before I knew it the frustration had escalated, and Tappy responded by slamming the laptop shut and exclaiming, “Fine, we won’t have a powerpoint.”

Then I rebutted, “Fine, and you can teach this class alone!”

What's Behind the Argument

During the whole evening I was begging him to work on the power point later, I argued that it wasn’t as important as the lesson, and how inefficient it seemed to be multi-tasking. I was talking about the external circumstances. The surface issue was I didn’t want to work on the power point while we lesson planned.

This caused Tap to argue the importance of the power point, how it helped us stay on track during our lesson, and how it made more sense to make it as we went through the lesson rather than after. The surface issue was that he wanted to do the power point simultaneously.

When we stay in the surface issues we offer ZERO sympathy. We don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Instead we are out to win the argument. 

After the blow up, we cooled down, and we wisened up. We remembered that all heated arguments aren’t about the surface issues, but something deeper.

Tap was probably the one to break the ice, by stating how he felt. “I feel unappreciated when you want me to stop working on the power point, because I feel that my contribution to the lesson isn’t important to you.”

My husband feels unappreciated. AAACK! That’s not what I want. Pause, Rewind. Now I’m slowing down to understand and empathize. I had the opportunity to say, “No, I love the power points you make, and I see how they help the class follow along and engage!” Trying to undue all the harm I’ve done, and shine light on all the positives I see and to show the appreciation he needed.

Then I shared my under-the-surface-feelings, “I feel disrespected when you would stop me in the middle of my sentences or thoughts to fix the power point, because I didn’t feel like you were concentrating on the lesson plan and our time was being wasted.”

That’s when he stepped into my shoes and saw how I was frustrated to watch him work on something I couldn’t help him with, and he began to see that his attention did appear to be pulled in two directions.

Surface issue: To work on the Power Point or Not to work on the Power Point

REAL issue: Feeling Unappreciated & Feeling Disrespected

 

Focusing on our feelings keeps the argument more humane and it opens us up to be more receptive of our partner’s point of view. Using an XYZ statement is a great way to express your feelings as well as help you identify your feelings in the middle of an argument. Here is an XYZ statement:

I feel  ___X___, when  ___Y___, because ___Z___.”

If you scroll back up, you can see how Tappy and I used this exact framework to calm our argument down.

 

What are ways you turn a fight around?

Challenge: Next argument, try to use an XYZ statement and tell us how it goes.

Best and Most Challenging Parts of Marriage

A couple-friend of ours is engaged and currently doing pre-marital counseling. They were told to interview three couples (in different stages of marriage) with three questions.

And guess who was a lucky winner?! Tap and I!

We had a lot of fun mulling over these questions, and discussing them with our friends so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. What is the BEST thing about marriage?
  2. What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage?
  3. What is your #1 best piece of ADVICE?

Photo Courtesy – Kevin Curtis at Unsplash

Tap and I have been married for 4 years on the 10th of December, and we are still learning just as much as the next couple…. But here are the few insights we were able to give.

What is the BEST thing about marriage : Friendship

Tappy and I probably could have said this in unison… we BOTH feel that this is just truly great.

We love that our team-mate, friend, and lover is always there. We don’t ever have to be alone, we have each other for all the hurdles and celebrations of life.

From this day forward, for better or worse, you always have someone there to go through it with you.

What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage : Fighting Fair, Balance, & More

To be honest this question came with more than one answer… In the four short years we’ve had together we’ve seen different challenges… and I am positive it’s only a glimpse of the challenges yet to come.  But for each year of our life, I thought there was a challenge worth mentioning.

Year 1: Comparison

In year one, we compared our reality of marriage to our imagination of marriage. We had to learn what the difference was between our ideals and what was. But comparison went further for me… it was comparing myself to other women and specifically Tap’s ex’s. I had to learn confidence and grace for myself, and trust in how God made me, and trust what Tap said when he complimented me.

Year 2: Learning to Fight Fair

This is really more of an every-year thing… We still pull the gloves off every now and then and fight dirty, but the earlier you can drop the bad habits the better!

Tap and I have learned that we cannot go to bed angry, otherwise we can’t sleep.  However, this doesn’t work for everyone. It’s usually best to give yourself a “time-out” to clear your head, minimize the emotion, and get back down to business.

Another great thing for us is to remind ourselves we are a team… whatever we are fighting about, it should be us fighting together to tackle the issue. Try not to forget you are a team.

Year 3: Balancing Life

We don’t have kids yet, but we still had to learn to balance our lives: house chores, work, church, friends, alone time, and date time. It only gets harder when more things add to this list!

Because Tap works in ministry, there was an added dynamic to this.  It is wise to prioritize your life in this way: God, Wife, Kids, Work. But if Tap works for God (in ministry) then this list gets a little blurry. We had to define what items on his Job Description were “God things” and which were “Work things.” It was hard to define this line…. God’s work is important, but it is also important not to become a workaholic and to give your family the proper time they need.

What is your #1 Best Piece of Advice : Dating & Communication

It surprises me how many couples are scared to be vulnerable and honest in a culture that seems to be so “out-there.” Conversations can be tough, but if you can be courageous to discuss things and humble enough to listen it will save your marriage a lot of heart-ache.

Tap said Dating is his best advice… “Happy wife, happy life!” But really, dating allows you to stay connected, keep in touch, and grow together. It’s important to always invest in your relationship.

Tap didn’t realize this until he was married, but he opens up best when we go on walks.

In my studies I learned that men connect “Side by Side” while women tend to connect “Face to Face.”  While I can sit over coffee and talk for hours, a man typically prefers to bond through doing something… fixing a car, playing basketball, etc. So try to connect through doing… go on a walk, kayak, work on a project he’s passionate about, etc.  Don’t always expect him to open up by facing him directly (and possibly intimidatingly). haha.

See some great date ideas at TheDatingDivas.com or the book 10GreatDates, got a budget try $10GreatDates!

What questions would you ask? How would you answer these questions? Engage in the discussion!

Why I’m Tired of Hearing “Marriage is Hard”

When Tap and I first got engaged we were constantly reminded by many well-intentioned friends and family that “marriage is hard.”  Hearing this repeatedly sure puts a damper on the excitement of finally being a fiance instead of a girlfriend, the oncoming dreamy wedding, and the happily ever after that follows.  Because of this negative-nancy feeling, I try not to ever say this myself; atleast, not without a disclaimer.

 

“Marriage can be work, BUT it can be fun.”
“Marriage is hard, BUT it is worth it.”

 

Skitter Photo on StockSnap.io

I know there are a LOT of people out there who struggle in marriage, and wrestle with the idea of divorce.  The divorce rate proves that much. Divorce is everywhere, but what about the flip side? How much marital support do we see in today’s culture?

It is easy to side with our dear friends, especially for fear of losing the friendship.  When they come to us with the struggles of their marriage, it can be tempting to add on more reasons why their spouse has failed them.  Quickly the line between sympathy and discouragement is blurred and we become part of the problem-adding another number to the statistic.

Except in the cases of emotional, mental, and physical abuse; what our friends need most is an encourager, a warrior in the battlefield next to them, a personal advocate for their marriage.

We need to step alongside our friends and let them know that they aren’t alone, because, like we’ve all been told, marriage is hard.

Maybe it’s time to put on some humility and let them see a few of our own battle scars.

We should remind them of all the good in their partner, share with them the strength that comes with each obstacle that’s defeated, and share with them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel if they would just.hold.on.

Really, if we attended their wedding, this is what we vowed to do.  They vowed to each other for better or worse.  Then all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen, all of the wedding guests, the father that walked down the isle and the mom crying in the front row, we all attested in that moment that we would fight for their marriage too- That they did not have to fight for it alone, and we would stand by their vows and by their marriage. So, that’s what we should do.

Have you ever felt tempted to join the negativity of marriage? Have you chosen to be the one friend who encourages marriage instead of encouraging divorce? What are some ways you can fight for your marriage and your friend’s marriage?

 

Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated[d] always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?[e]

Proverbs 5:15-20