When you are thinking about the bigger picture or remembering that your spouse is your best friend and that you love them, how much harder is it to continue on your selfish rampage, your complaining about the smallest things? In my marriage I am probably (most definitely) the biggest instigator of arguments. John Gottman, author of “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work” says that this is a genetic difference between male and female. As females, we are accustomed to reregulating our feelings more easily, thus conflict may not bother us as much. A male, my husband, is more likely to shrug off something that is irritating him to avoid a conflict and bringing to the surface ill feelings.
John Gottman wrote in his book, “Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse.” I am so grateful that I count my husband as my best friend. Just because we are best friends definitely does not mean that conflict and petty arguments don’t arise. When love and friendship lead in our marriages, we learn how to manage our conflicts in a way that does not degrade either spouse. Repair attempts are tricks that are used in most relationships and conflicts. Some are successful while others are not. Learning a repair technique that works in your marriage can be so beneficial.
Between Rybot and I, repair attempts vary. One repair attempt I use quite often is any quote that comes to mind from the awesome movie, “Finding Nemo”. This could be something like, “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming”, when we are talking about finances or something else that we just have to swim through in life. During an argument, I urge anyone, especially myself, to take a moment to pause and analyze the way that you personally are escalating the fight and decide to not ramp up the tension, but to listen, maybe use a repair attempt, maybe even back down if you realize you are in the wrong.
This is so hard for me. I get really emotionally fueled and can go on and on. A couple of weeks ago Rybot asked me what he could do better. I didn’t realize he was talking about one specific thing that we had been talking about earlier. When he asked that, I was already mulling over in my mind the things that were bothering me. I went into a full blown attack, criticizing a million things that he doesn’t do, slacks on, doesn’t reach my expectations on, etc. I saw all life, happiness drain from him. Of course he stonewalled me, meaning he had nothing to reply with. He wanted this horrible attack to cease. So, he left the room and went to start doing dishes. That was what I wanted from him, wasn’t it? I knew I had hurt him, but instead of immediately going to apologize, I continued to walk into the kitchen to throw a few more knives, attack a little more. I probably did this a couple times before I took a minute to bring down the evil that seemed to take over my spirit. I remember thinking, “oh my gosh, I just let Satan totally take over here. How horrible!” I went into the kitchen and stared at him until he looked up at me, He said he loved me and I said I was so sorry. A little later I told him that Satan took over. That was my little repair attempt.
That whole conflict would never have happened had I let love lead my words and my actions. He wasn’t even fighting back, this was a one sided attack. I think that is when I most easily go over the top, because I didn’t even have to compete with counterattacks; hey, it’s pretty easy to rub someone’s face in the ground when they are already down there, right?
John Gottman teaches of the “Four Horseman”, the things that lead to divorce and unhappiness in marriage. These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. I encourage anyone to look these up and to focus on how they are dealing with disagreements in their relationships, particularly marriage. After learning about these things, I don’t think any of us are in the clear of using some of these detrimental tactics in our relations.
Let love lead.