Thursday, 21 July 2011

Rules of Engagement

If you must fight, do it with decorum. Just as boxing has its Marquess of Queensberry rules, a code of generally accepted rules, so you and your spouse should adopt your own set of rules when it comes to settling disagreements.

For example you might adopt some of the following conditions:
• No bringing up past mistakes.
• No sarcasm or name calling.
• No using terms such as “you always”, “you never”, etc.
• No introducing multiple topics into the conversation.
• No triangulating, i.e. bringing in others who would side with you
• No yelling or screaming
• No intense conversations should happen in front of children
• Absolutely no physical touch ( unless you are making up)

Often disagreements center around the same subject, i.e. money, disciplining the children, etc. Most likely the outcome will be the same – nothing gets resolved and both parties are frustrated (at best). Why not change the “game”?

Perhaps you could:
(1) Agree to just discuss the issue with no intention of resolving it. The sole purpose would be for each person to describe as unemotionally as possible what it is that is driving their particular view. For example, one of the partners may have grown up in a home where money was always tight and always an issue. Their fear of being in the same predicament (even if unfounded) would give reason to their concern.
(2) Agree to change sides. As debating teams often do in preparation for a competition, each of you argue the other person’s view point.

Sherlock Holmes
I’ve often quoted the passage in the book of James, i.e. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it…” Assuming that God has more insight into human nature than you and me it seems safe to say that our arguments are often caused because we as a couple desire a different outcome. Before you say, “No kidding Sherlock”, realize the desired outcome is being driven by an emotion, an experience, a self-centered proclaimed need.

Be honest with yourself and each other. “I’ve wanted a red sports car ever since I was seven.” Or, “I have dreamed all my life of having five children,” (which by the way will cost more than the sports car.) The point is that the basis for our position is not always the most rational of reasons. Such candor might do wonders to resolve the argument.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

So You're Expecting

One of God’s greatest gifts is children. Unfortunately it is reported that two-thirds of couples see the quality of their relationship drop within three years of the birth.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (of all publications) cited several contributing factors including:
• Conflict intensifies: if the couple fought over finances before the baby they will likely fight all the more after.
• Roles change: mothers will tend to focus their energy on the baby, often the fathers feel useless and/or neglected.
• Conversation dulls: time for real conversation is neglected.
• Sleep is scarce: often both parents are sleep deprived
• Post Partum depression: exacerbates all of the above

It doesn’t have to be this way. First Christ has to be at the top of the pyramid, followed by the husband/wife, then family, etc. That means that baby is number three in the “food chain”. S/he is yours only for a season; your marriage is “til death do you part”. The couple must be very intentional about setting aside time for themselves. They must make time to pray together, set aside time for in-depth conversations, and set aside time for intimacy.

The operative word is intentional. The tyranny of the urgent will replace the important if you let it. Most of us can find or make the time to do that which we really want to do. You may need to be creative. Parents, siblings, an elderly couple in the church and/or friends may be willing to give you occasional relief, if sitters are too prohibitive. Go for a walk, a bike ride or run, pack a picnic, go for an ice cream cone, rent a movie, do a puzzle, or play scrabble. The point is carve out time to be together and focus on something other than your new found bundle of joy.