Marriage is tough, y’all.
We marry these best friends. We have an amazing honeymoon phase. We connect and make our tiny humans…and then, suddenly, we start having problems. At least that was the case in my marriage.
My husband (the hunk as I call him) and I were high school sweethearts. We grew up together. We were together for almost eight years consistently before even tying the knot. We dreamed together, planned together, and played together. But when you add kiddos to the mix, unmet expectations arise.
We had different ideas of parenting we never knew would become a problem. Those expectations were never something we thought to express before hand. We dreamed and planned family trips and how we would decorate a nursery, but we didn’t ever really discuss PARENTING itself. So some arguments arose. Arguments about how we each disciplined. Arguments about what is my responsibility and what is his. Arguments about how we each spent our time. Arguments about TV consumption for our tiny humans (and how dads have this innate ability to always default to television as the babysitter when they are watching the kiddos). Arguments about what his expectation was of me, ESPECIALLY once I became a stay at home mom. The arguments spanned the ridiculous to the serious topics, but one thing remained. We were arguing.
During this time, I was devastated. My best friend and I were fighting more than talking. We struggled for YEARS to get pregnant and now that we had our very own, biological tiny humans, we weren’t enjoying the process. We were just falling apart.
That was when I remembered the premarital counseling we had with our friend and pastor. We had forgotten our meetings due to the fact we were so ‘blissful’ and ‘perfect,’ but God brought it back to my attention through a prayer session I had over our marriage difficulties.
Our amazing pastor, Dutch, gave us three solid rules for arguments. These rules seemed so ridiculous, but when my hunk and I committed to following them every time we were arguing, we found we were once again dreaming, planning, and discussing rather than fighting and disagreeing. Sure, you never see eye to eye with your husband. Compromise is a must in all relationships. But these three tips saved us from our constant fighting and helped our marriage work again.
ONE: Always use ‘feelings first’ language.
Feelings first means that instead of rattling off all the things that are angering, disappointing, or upsetting you, approach the situation with your emotions only.
The example: Where you might have started the conversation previously with, “Bae, you couldn’t do these dishes for me?! I’ve been dealing with drool, crying, and unable to do anything for her all day, so I couldn’t get to them, and now she’s finally asleep, and I just have more work to do. While you’re playing video games.” (Now momma, don’t lie. You know this conversation has come up at least once in your marriage!) With feelings first language, you discuss your feelings…well…first. “Bae, I feel so overwhelmed today. The baby was inconsolable. I feel disappointed that when she’s finally asleep, I have all these dishes to do now. Help would have been really nice.” See how much less aggressive that is? Men get easily backed into a wall with aggression, and they fight back. Testosterone flows and their mouths open. And it’s never a good ending. Approaching a disagreement with your feelings, rather than attacks, helps it stay just that, a disagreement, instead of escalating to an argument.
TWO: You can’t negate someone else’s feelings.
This rule walks hand in hand with feelings first language, but it comes as the other person’s response. Basically, it means that even if you *think* the other person is being absolutely ridiculous, you can’t say that. You can’t argue away their feelings. You can’t tell them they aren’t supposed to feel that way. It’s like being hungry. If you tell someone else that you are hungry never in a million years would you anticipate them saying that you’re not. It’s just not your place. The same goes for emotions. If your partner is feeling a certain way, you can’t tell them they shouldn’t be feeling that way, just like you would never tell them they aren’t hungry.
Going back to our example: The man in this scenario could not respond to the momma by telling her she shouldn’t feel overwhelmed because teething happens. Or that she’s being selfish for not allowing him to rest after a hard day’s work, implying her work isn’t just as difficult. Instead, he has to accept the way she’s feeling. He could respond with something along the lines of, “So, you are feeling stressed out because the baby has been difficult today, and then I didn’t help with the dishes?” That allows the partner to know that she was heard and helps solidify her feelings and bring acceptance to them. The response from the listening party is just as important as the “feelings first” language. Never forget this step, or it won’t work.
THREE: NEVER use the word “YOU.”
This rule tends to be FAR more difficult to put into practice than the other two. It’s so easy to talk about someone’s behaviors intertwined with your feelings when the word “you” is in play. What happens when you is in play, however, is it turn the situation aggressive, an attack. “You” implies someone else’s character is faulty. It’s not a good approach.
In our final reference to the example, think of how much different the discussion would have sounded if the wife use the word “you” even when using her feelings first. “Bae, I feel so overwhelmed today. The baby was inconsolable. I feel disappointed that when she’s finally asleep, I have all these dishes to do now because YOU didn’t. It would have been really nice if YOU would have helped.” Even with her feelings being the first thing discussed, she still attacked his character by pointing out his lack of help with the use of the word “you.” This could go very badly. It won’t always, especially since this is a mild example. But, many times, using the word “you” creates discord and still makes the other person feel attacked. It creates the need to defend oneself, instead of just hearing and trying to understand the first person’s feelings. The husband in this situation would probably not hear the feelings and instead defend his position on why he felt the need to play video games instead of do the dishes. It destroys the whole idea of feelings first language, dispelling feelings of attack. So toss “you” out of your disagreement vocabulary.
These three rules take work. Lots of it. It has to come from both of you. An agreement that you both make to improve your marriage’s communication for the betterment of your family. But the hard work is worth it. What used to be a knock down, drag out fight now becomes a quick, healing discussion. It brings unity, peace, and happiness back into things that used to be filled with tension and strife.
No marriage is perfect. And this method of communication takes discipline, patience, and self control. Sometimes you may even have to walk away from the situation and pray before approaching your husband in order to calm your nerves. But the end result is more than profitable. To bring it back to the Word of God, always remember these nuggets of truth from Proverbs:
“A hot tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” – Proverbs 15:18
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32
“It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” – Proverbs 20:3
“An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot tempered person commits many sins.” – Proverbs 29:22
Momma, you’ve got this. Take a step in the right direction. Pray for self-control when anger and disappointment arise, and follow the three rules to restore your marriage to the place God wants us to be! Don’t let the enemy find a foothold in your marriage through poor communication skills. These three simple rules can change your communication and marriage in ways that further the Gospel! Go for it!