Friday, 17 June 2011

Zero Sum Game

John von Neumann
John von Neumann, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century is credited with the two-person, zero sum game theory. This theory basically states that one player wins what the other player loses. Oddly enough this useless factoid can be applied to marriage.

In a recent posting entitled “How to Stop the Fighting and the pain”, Amy Barnhart had this to say. “The point of fighting is for someone to “win” and for someone to “lose” and that this only damages the relationship. We can discuss, argue, even vehemently make our point, but fighting is destructive and a complete waste of time.”

Here is where the great mathematician and I part company. Unfortunately when a married couple fights there is no winner and if children are in ear shot the collateral damages are even greater.

Amy goes on to say, “Having said this, it is often difficult for people to let go of fighting because anger often feels good! It’s a rush and feels invigorating. We feel in control. We feel righteous and safe, (safe from acknowledging our true feelings, that is). And we know that anger is always a result of feeling fear or pain, which are often far more complicated and uncomfortable to deal with. So if we’re coming at each other with anger, it’s most often because we’re actually not dealing with our real emotions.”

News flash – most guys aren’t good about identifying and sharing their real emotions. Furthermore Scripture would suggest that a man needs to feel respected. The mere fact that he is fighting with his wife would indicate that he may not be feeling respected.

Amy’s advice, “So you want to know how to stop fighting? Well, that’s simple – Don’t Fight…You can discuss, disagree, cajole, argue, persuade, differ, convince, entice, inveigle and (occasionally), bicker, but fighting is out.”

Wow, that was helpful (I say with tongue embedded in my cheek). But Amy does make some good points. Fighting will rarely, if ever, resolve a dispute to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. In fact as Christians we are called to glorify God in whatever we do (1Corinthians 10:31).

As a married couple you are “one”. So unless you have a split personality you can’t be on two sides of the same issue. This is critical; you must both be on the same side facing the issue. Next go to the Lord in prayer. Ask him to give each of you clarity of thought, wisdom and discernment to make a decision that would honor Him. Then each of you express your perceptions of the issue, paraphrase back what you heard the other say until you both understand the other’s position and then brainstorm, looking for a creative solution that will glorify God and bring satisfactory resolution.

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