About eight months ago my husband told me he had been looking into getting some training to help men in difficult marriage situations. It seems that his work world was being ravaged by men who were on the brink of divorce.
I remembered the simple thing he had instituted with one of his coworkers who was talking divorce. Every month Dave would take me on a special date and have someone take our picture. He’d then text it to his buddy with a note, “I’m dating my wife, how about you?” What started as an in-your-face reminder that the man needed to work on his marriage ended up with the coworker saying that his marriage was the best it has ever been a year later. These friends now regularly tag team their “date” photos.:)
But what if your marriage is the one needing help? What if there is no one in your husband’s life to help him realize what he is missing?
Little did I know where this marriage training idea would lead us. We soon hopped into a class using the John Gottman method and found ourselves among people who were really struggling in their marriages. What I discovered is that when you surround yourself with hurting couples you want to pass along what is working for your marriage. The pain is sometimes deep, really deep. Patterns of behavior are almost etched in stone and it’s difficult see any way out of the pain other than divorce.
But just like my husband’s simple text picture to his co-worker, I love Michele Weiner Davis’s subtitle in Step 1 of The Divorce Remedy. It simply states,
“It takes One to Tango”.
What if you are the person who chooses to tango in your marriage? What if you change one simple response to your pattern of behavior?
I’ve been coaching one woman in her marriage and we’ve landed on her trying one change. When in doubt, use silence.
As women, we sometimes want to have the last word and respond in defensiveness, contempt, criticism, or anger to our husband’s sarcasm or hurtful words, adding fuel to the fire. While sometimes his words are intentional, sometimes we are just unable to fully understand what he is trying to say and misinterpret the true meaning. Either way, planned silence can block the emotion. It takes the fight out of the punch. If we know our spouse’s typical behavior riles us, why not plan ahead to avoid the argument? I love the line my husband came up with, “why return the volley if it’s a game you don’t want to play?”
What I’m finding is interesting in the equation is that when wives are silent to whatever their husbands choose to dish out, sometime their husband finds himself actually hearing what he just said. It’s as if the silence seems to amplify what just happened. He takes note. Sometimes he’ll even apologize.
Why not try it in your own marriage or with your tweens and teens? Next time one of them hurls words that upset you, choose not to return the volley.
What could you do instead?
- Pause, look them in the eye, and leave the room.
- Pause and change the subject.
- Pause, let them know you’ll be happy to talk when they can get rid of the sarcasm or anger, and leave the room.
- Pause, tell them their words have upset you and you are unable to talk right now, but you are happy to try again later.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
What about you? What tango could you do to change the crazy cycle of your marriage? I’d love to hear if silence has worked for you as a response.
“Let go…and let God”,