Love and Marriage
On the other hand, Jim had a smother mother and, whenever he feels Sharon is clinging to him, he overreacts too, gets angry and blames Sharon for his overreaction. The impasse or deadlock is that Jim won't admit that he, too, has a problem and consequently won’t go for help.
The reality is that both Jim and Sharon are overreacting.
Overreactions happen when unresolved issues or wounds from one’s past are triggered. So the more we have resolved our issues from the past, the less we will overreact when negative things happen to us. This isn’t to say that we won’t get our feelings hurt or that we shouldn't feel angry at times, but we need to learn how to react in the right manner at the right time in the right proportion to what has happened, not in proportion to our hypersensitivity.
The degree to which I overreact is always my problem. How the other partner responds is always his/her issue, but how I respond is always my issue and my responsibility.
So what hope do couples like Jim and Sharon have? Almost none unless both are willing to take ownership of what each is contributing to their conflict. However, if both are willing to be genuinely honest with themselves and each other—and with God—and together on their knees ask God to show them what they are contributing to the conflict, take full responsibility for their part, and ask God to help them find and get the help they need, then there is great hope for both personal growth and resolution of their marriage conflict. As God's Word says, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."5
Second: Equally important, is learning to communicate effectively.
Be honest with feelings.Author John Powell expressed this need poignantly when he said, "We defend our dishonesty [denying and not sharing our true feelings] on the grounds that it may hurt another person. And then, having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships."6
A soft answer turns away wrath but
grievous words stir up hostility.
When sharing feelings use "I" messages. Instead of saying, "You make me mad," or "You really hurt my feelings," say words to this effect: "When you say (or do) things like thus and so, I feel hurt and/or angry, and I need to talk to you about it." This takes responsibility for your own feelings and avoids blaming the other person. Blaming others blocks resolution. As difficult as it may be, I need to admit that nobody causes my hurt feelings or makes me angry without my permission. This doesn’t justify what the other person does, but it accepts full responsibility for how I react and respond.
Also give up the right to always be right. People who have a compulsion to always be right tend to be insecure and immature. Be willing to say, "I was wrong. I apologize." And as the Bible also teaches, "Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil."7
Resolve conflicts and angry feelings as quickly as possible, for when do, the devil loses his foothold.
Lastly speak softly. Most of us tend to raise our voices when we are upset. Research has shown that one effective way to handle yellers is to speak softly. This tends to make them lean forward and speak more softly so they can hear what you are saying. Yelling begets yelling! As Michel de Montaigne said, "He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak." As the Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up hostility."8
There we have it. If each partner will accept full responsibility for what he/she contributing to their relationship conflicts, and communicate effectively without playing the blame game, there is great hope for conflict resolution and genuine and lasting love in their marriage.
1. Genesis 2:18 (NIV).
2. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations by Paul Lee Tan, p. 778.
4. Romans 12:18, (NIV).
5. Psalm 145:18 (NIV).
6. John Powell, Why I Am Afraid to Tell You Who I Am. Argus Communications.
7. Ephesians 4:26–27, (NLT).
8. Proverbs 15:1.
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