We live in a day and age when we can find a book, blog, or YouTube video to help us with almost any problem. It’s amazing how many tools are available to boost the chances of marital success. Interestingly, there is also more divorce now than there was before all the help was available. Our culture has taken a definite turn for the worse in regards to commitment and simply sticking it out when the going gets tough.
In our grandparents’ day, a person got a job with a company, kept it for more than thirty years, retired, and the company took care of him or her with a pension. This wasn’t always the case, but it wasn’t unusual. My mom, aunt, and uncle all retired within the last two years from companies they’d been with for well over twenty-five years. My dad recently attended a banquet in honor of employees who have been with his company for over thirty years.
Our generation is… a bit different. A website I saw reported that these days people change jobs in America an average of ten to fifteen times in the course of their careers. We have choices everywhere. If we don’t like something, we can try something else. If we get tired of our favorite restaurant, we often have a vast array to choose from in a ten mile radius. Though it’s not evil to have choices, or to change careers, it is dangerous to approach marriage the way we approach our educational endeavors, careers, hobbies, or eating desires – like preferences we can change at any time and for any reason.
Throw it Away, or Fix it?
I recently saw a photograph of an older couple sitting together with this caption beneath it:
A reporter asked the couple, “How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?” The woman replied, “We were born in a time when if something was broken, we would fix it, not throw it away….”
Too often, marriages are ended when they cease to “work.” When being with a person’s spouse no longer fulfills them, they walk away. When conflicts, painful circumstances, money problems, or other issues surface, it’s easier to throw away the “broken” relationship than to continually peel back the layers and fix the problems.
We do have a lot of helpful marriage materials on the market (and even materials to prepare well for marriage here on PreEngaged), but unless couples apply the tools available, nothing will change. In fact, if we don’t like what one marriage book has to say (i.e., they require too much work or make us admit to our own shortcomings), we can go buy another one! (And the Bible is still the best marriage book ever written! ~smile~)
So much marital discord simply comes from the different ways men and women view the world. After all, we like to believe that our outlook on life is normal and we want our significant other or spouse to see the world the right way… our way. Since Bill and Pam Farrel would love to see couples fix their problems instead of throwing their marriages away, they offer several good tools and insights in their chapter, Waffles and Spaghetti in Conflict.
Waffles and Spaghetti in Conflict
Have you ever taken an insult from your sweetheart and turned it into something positive? Bill and Pam advise couples to cut the hot lead. Once Pam told Bill he was “so picky,” when they were working on a project and, though he could have escalated the situation by throwing a counter-insult her way, he diffused the situation by saying, “I wouldn’t have married you if I wasn’t so picky.” How could she stay mad after a compliment like that? ~smile~
Playfully and lovingly changing the course of a dialogue from potentially explosive to heartwarming may be easier than you think! I love this quote from the Farrels: “When your spouse says, ‘You are impossible,’ start humming the theme to Mission Impossible.” When you do turn the tide of a brewing argument, be sure to do so playfully and not sarcastically.
Also, don’t be afraid to softly pause the discussion. When you know the disagreement is heading to a hurtful place, say something. Don’t just allow the conversation to go south. The Farrels call this “sounding the alarm”. Maybe you could say, “I don’t have a good feeling about where this conversation is going. I think I may really get my feelings hurt if we stay on this track” or “If we keep this up, we’re both going to say something we’ll regret” if you sense the argument is heading to a dark place. If you address each other calmly, there is a good chance a knockdown, drag out fight can be avoided.
Last but not least, consider using passwords. Bill and Pam describe passwords as, “words or phrases the two of you agree on that allow you to get back on track.” When you and your significant other or spouse are barreling down the road toward an erupting emotional volcano, it helps to have a word or phrase that causes both partners to stop in their tracks before flying headfirst into the molten lava. Some password examples I’ve heard are “air hose” (from the book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs), “fireworks” (I’m starting to get mad or I’m feeling explosive), and “love tank” (I’m feeling unloved). When couples agree on passwords, hearing them from each other instantly sends a signal that the other needs something, whether it’s a request for a calmer tone of voice, a break from the conversation, more love, or an apology for being unloving or disrespectful. Passwords can bring conflicts to a screeching halt when they spiraling out of control, but be careful not to use passwords to manipulate each other (e.g., saying “love tank” as a way of accusing your sweetheart of not loving you enough in an attempt to take the focus off of something you did wrong, etc.).
Waffles and Spaghetti in Your House
As you prepare for your future marriage, I would strongly recommend adding Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti to your library. Consulting marriage experts for ways to enhance your relationship is a sign of wisdom as long as the experts’ advice lines up with God’s Word. The tips I focused on today are only a few pearls of wisdom contained in this book! Happy reading… and possibly eating. ~smile~
What arguments have you and your significant other encountered due to your gender differences?