Covenant and Conflict
I LOVE marriage and I HATE conflict (especially in my marriage). As a result I try really hard to minimize conflict in my marriage, but despite my best efforts it can't be eliminated completely- not if you're getting things done, anyway. Every single part of our life is impacted through this church plant effort, and with less than 70 days before we move, our security blankets are being taken away on the almost daily basis. In a season like this, it's not whether or not there will be conflict, but whether you will face it together or apart.
I thought it would be "fun" (or at least helpful) to share a recent conflict that Megan and we went through in hopes that it can help you through your next conflict.
Megan and I have made about 8,276,307,824 decisions in the last couple of months- many of them are just normal life, but others are weighty decisions. How much can we afford to spend on our house to sell it? What does that leave us with when we move to Denver? What are the drop dead numbers for us? What schools would be good fits for our kids...So on and so forth and on and on...
The weight of all of these decisions brings with it a certain amount of stress, and our response to this pressure often puts us wanting completely different things:
When she is under stress she wants to talk about all of the information. Because she wants to connect.
When I am under stress, I want to make out and then crawl into a cave and hibernate. Because I want to connect, too - but differently.
...and when we find ourselves at different ends of the spectrum, it can get awkward.
I don't even know what we were talking about.. so let's just say that we were arguing over whether or not a hotdog is a sandwich or not.
So we were talking about hotdogs (or whatever) and Megan was telling me all of the reasons that it was or wasn't a sandwich, complete with citations and contingencies... and I got overwhelmed (I actually started the conversation overwhelmed).
We've all ignored the warning from our conscience not to say something - and we end up saying something stupid or careless, but has your conscience ever failed to warn you that you were about to say something stupid?
has your conscience ever failed to warn you that you were about to say something stupid?
She picked up on the fact that I was becoming either dispondent or agitated or both, and because I use words for a living, I finally decided to use them. "Too many words!" I said, like a caveman,"Too many words!". She was taken aback, so I decided that since I use words for a living, I should use more descriptive language to describe how it felt...and I said, "It's like Shock and Awe with you right now. So many words!"
NARRATOR INTERJECTION: It was at that moment that David knew he messed up.
Sometimes, it's what you say that is the problem. Sometimes it's how you say what you say that's the problem. To be clear - nothing was thrown, no cuss words spoken, no screaming- we're not like that. Her response helped me understand that sometimes both things go wrong at the same time.
I heard someone once describe our words being like toothpaste... when you get it out of the tube, it's not going back in.
So with toothpaste all over the place, you're scrambling with a way to clean it up (or make it go away)..... Fake a seizure! Blame the devil! Blame the dog? Church planting is hard.
...we agreed that we needed some time to get perspective- I'll take credit because this is my blog post 😜... I had some meetings to go to, and she likewise, so we agreed to talk later.
I wish I could say that I figured it out all by myself, but I called in the reserves. I called one of the elders of the church, confessed that I was an idiot and asked for his help. His advice was the same as it always is... pick up your cross and follow Jesus, David.
This is our man-code for "Find Jesus. Get back in there! Apologize to your wife without conditions. Fulfill your vows to her."
So I did. I found Jesus and regained perspective, then apologized without conditions. I also bought her a small gift - a simple token that means a lot. The apology, and changed attitude and behavior mattered most.
Over the day, things cooled down and we committed to fighting alongside one another instead of fighting against one another. As we did, we overcame - because that's what we do.
The Goal is not a marriage that lacks conflict. The goal is a marriage that overcomes the conflict in unity.
NARRATOR INTERJECTION: Later that day they made out and they lived happily ever... (until the next conflict)
Some Important takeaways....
Conflict won't/can't be eliminated from marriage, and that's to our benefit. The conflict that comes in marriage sanctifies us and helps us grow out of selfishness.
When you feel overwhelmed by the information your spouse is sharing with you - look for the message underneath. Buried inside of all the information that she was sharing was really important information about how she felt, what was important to her, and what she was scared of... I just wasn't looking for it. (you won't get it right every time)
Know how your spouse processes stress and, whenever possible, meet them where they are. (you won't get it right every time)
Most of the stuff you fight about won't matter much in 20 years... or 20 months ...or 20 days ...or 20 hours ...or sometimes even in 20 minutes. Clearly this was the case for this conversation... so let it go quickly.
I knew I was agitated beore the conversation started - that should have been enough for me to say "let's talk later." Or "Can we make out first?" (the second one is a little riskier proposition than the first, haha).
The argument was not about the conversation that we were having - it rarely is - it was about the week leading up to it, and starting from two different points.
Face the challenges together. Don't let arguments about hotdogs and sandwiches, kids, the dog, laundry, electric bills or any of the other things get between you... take them on together.
Take the hill. Together.