By Greg Vaughn
Ask any married couple, what they need to work on, and most if not all will say communication. Ask how they are working on it, and they become dumbfounded as to what you mean. Most people have this idea that communication is a panacea for what ails their marriage. There is not one solution when it comes to improving your communication. There are many facets to communication, and this article will focus on one of the bigger items. Fighting, that is how to express your opinions and disagreements in a spiritual and non destructive way.
The question then becomes can you be upset and not in sin? Or is it a sin to fight? Blaine Smith has this to say:
“But how, then, does Paul’s counsel to be angry but not sin reconcile with Jesus’ teaching on anger in the Sermon on the Mount? Here it’s important to note what Jesus says and what he doesn’t. He doesn’t say that the person who is angry is being judged as sinning, but that he is “liable to judgment.” Liable. He or she is at a highly vulnerable point–a hair’s breadth, perhaps, from doing something rash. But this is different from saying that this person is sinning simply by feeling angry. This point is well-captured by Vernon Grounds in his Emotional Problems and the Gospel:
Does our Lord mean that a mere feeling of anger is no different from the actual crime of murder? He can scarcely mean . . . that. No, He is reminding us, rather, of what can happen if an angry feeling is allowed to fester in our minds.
Jesus’ point, then, isn’t that anger is a sinful emotion but a dangerous one. When we examine the New Testament thoroughly on the point, in fact, we never find it condemning any emotion as sinful in itself. It’s always the action which proceeds from an emotion that is judged sinful. Again, “Be angry but do not sin.
Growing up in my family, the only way to be heard was to be loudest, or throw something to get someone’s attention. I saw firsthand how this destroyed my parent’s marriage of thirty years. For most of those years, they were miserable, sleeping in different rooms, not having a way to effectively communicate what they needed from each other or even how express a difference of opinion. Now you may not be to this point yet in your marriage, yet you might be able to empathize here. Do you feel you cannot share an opinion without the other one “jumping on you”, do you feel you cannot communicate your needs effectively, Do small things escalate quickly into big things, quickly? I do not have a magic pill for you, only what I have learned over the last ten years with my wife and the scriptures.
This way of communicating will not happen overnight, and each of you will become frustrated at times. The goal is to replace the destructive ways you communicate in your marriage and replace them with a more mature spiritual way. The scriptures say “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Prov. 16:3. God wants us to have better marriages and wants to bless it.
There is a common analogy of the husband and wife when they married. It goes that a woman is like the missing rib in relation to a man. Eve was formed out of Adam so in a way, she completes him. Whether or not you agree with this, you could definitely say that men and women are vastly different. This is based on the scripture
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
I have a different take on the rib thing. If you read the next verse.
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh
It describes how Adam and Eve become one. Personally, I think that they became something better than each one by themselves. They become a “we,” that is a new creation. With each one contributing strengths and weaknesses. This is something to keep in mind when talking with your spouse. It is not “You” versus “Them,” It is you versus the issue. It is the new team versus Satan.
In metal working, if you want to make a sword, you first sit down and write out what attributes you want for it, strength, heft, sharpness and so on. There is no one metal that has all these qualities. So the Forger, will take two or metals and melt them down, remove the impurities and forge a new piece. The sword may not look like the original materials, but it takes on the qualities of both without losing its identity.
If you can simply take this view that you are a team, you will have already solved many of the issues that married couples face. Each of you have a different view, and experience. Maybe you grew up with out money, so you want to save for the future Your spouse grew up with a lot, a spends a lot or does not care about saving but living life in the now. This is common scenario. If you see yourselves as a team, you can bring those experiences together and share them with each other. Together you can learn to live a little while saving for the future.
Many of us have learned our communications skills when it comes to marriage from our own parents. Either we embrace their style or say to ourselves, “I will never be like that” only to swing to the complete opposite. The key to this issue is identifying how you and how your spouse each fights.
I remember a huge fight we had when we were first married. We were at a fabric store looking for a couch cover. She had asked me a simple question “She held up a bed sheet and asked me if I liked the color. I responded that it was the wrong application of the product and that it would never work for our couch. If I had stopped and listened to her, all she wanted to know was did I like the color? This little incident ended with the words “You never listen to me” It was a long silent ride home. The thing I learned that day is every one communicates in different ways. Both of our parents were screamers, they would yell and throw things at each other. We each have told ourselves we will never to be like that. So instead we become quite and let things stew. To us, we were not fighting, because we wanted to avid yelling at each other. It took another couple to show us, that by being silent we were still hurting each other, and not expressing our true feelings.
As married we must identify how we express anger. Some of us tend to explode in huge fits of rage then we are ok. Some like to stuff things inside and hope it goes away. Others let things stew only to reappear weeks or months later. Think of an old fashion cartoon bomb, Now ask yourself how long is your fuse ( that is how much does it take to push you over the edge)? How fast does your fuse burn (quick to anger, slow)? And how big is the explosion, (fit of rage, little explosions for a long time)?
For my wife, she has a really long fuse, that is she is very patient with me, but she can get very upset. For me, I am not as patient as her, but I get over things quicker. Not that one is better, that is just how we were made.
Once you identify how you deal with anger and identify how each of you fight you can then begin to address issues you have and begin to focus on having a fight that is both fair and not end in anger. My wife and I have come up with rule for us when we need to discuss an issue, hurt, or difference of opinion. In the weeks to follow we will share them with you. So come back next week!