What's the most frequent cause of arguments between you? Do you have different conflict resolution styles, and if so, how have you agreed to disagree?
(This is Mer, the wife)
I can honestly tell you that we argue over some of the most petty stuff. It's ridiculous how easily we can blow something out of proportion, and we have had some humdingers over n-o-t-h-i-n-g. We also argue over serious stuff--finances, issues of respect/disrespect, decisions to be made, etc, but without a doubt the thing we argue about most frequently is our differing approaches to parenting.
I tend to be strict and John tends to be lenient. I tend to be heavy on the consequences and he tends to be heavy on grace. I say no way more often, and because of that our kids ask their dad for things they really, really want. I think he lets them get away with way too much. Sometimes I feel like he's undermining me and I'm sure he feels the same way about some of my decisions.
But you know what? I believe our kids need the balance that we each bring. Suppose one of our kids got into trouble for lying. My immediate reaction would be to punish the child for that behavior. John would likely agree to some sort of consequence, but if I said, "Will, you're grounded for a week", John (aka Mr. Merciful) would likely wince and say, "How about a day?" As frustrating as that is for me, I believe our kids need the lessons of consequence AND of grace. Here's why: God gives us rules to protect us, and when we break the rules, there are consequences, BUT He also offers mercy, grace, and forgiveness whether we deserve it or not.
How have we agreed to disagree? I don't know if there's an easy answer for that, but I think we try to respect each other and our differences because we know that our kids need the balance of us. Sometimes I STRONGLY disagree with John and he knows it; the flip of that is true as well. Sometimes I stand my ground and sometimes he stands his. I don't think that we look at our marriage as a competition where one side "wins" and the other "loses" though. Sometimes it just calls for creative compromise.
As for our conflict resolution styles, um, YEAH, they differ! I usually spew my frustrations quickly (and loudly)(and often regretfully) and John usually turns his inward. I dump all my stuff on him and then I'm over it, while he takes all of his stuff (heaped with everything I've just spewed), gets really quiet, shuts down and shuts me out. Neither style is very healthy and both leave us feeling miserable.
Thankfully neither of us enjoys being mad or feeling out of sync for very long, so one of us will usually break the ice and invite the other into conversation. Usually, it goes something like this: Hey honey, I know we really got off track this morning but do you think we can talk through this and redeem the rest of the day?
Have we gone to bed mad at each other? Yep, many times. Have we said and done things we regret? Yep, many times. Will we hurt each other again? Yep. We will. And we'll keep coming back and extending forgiveness when that happens. I believe it's the only way this marriage thing can work.
And by the way, I don't recommend throwing things or storming out of the house and peeling out of the driveway in the minivan when you're really angry.
(this is John, the husband)
The question here deals with disagreements; that’s what we’re talking about. But we know there are some households filled with darkness, deep darkness. We in no way want to diminish or be flippant about that. If that’s your house, please ask for help.
Most of our disagreements these days revolve around our three kids, or as the experts would say our parenting styles. We are just now inching our way into the teen years; in other words, we’ve got miles to go. But we’ve already had more than a few moments where Cain has been raised between us. So what’s a couple to do?
Much of the parenting advice I hear and have been given is this: just make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. Mer runs a respectable blog here, so I’ll keep a rein on my language. I think that advice is horse feathers. I love Meredith and she loves me and we love our kids – you can write that on a 3x5 index card, but beyond that things get interesting…as, I believe, they should. If you and your husband are always on the same page, then, well, I think your pants are on fire.
I want our kids to look back on their childhoods and say things like whew! mom and dad were quite a pair, huh? They went round and round on some things, but they always came back to each other’s arms. And if I’m still around then, I’ll adjust my hearing aid, look over at Meredith and yell hear that? quite a pair, we were… No, not some same page, but a pair, as in “two” - a man and woman, as different as garlic and M&Ms, who kept it together by nothing but grace.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow. (Gibran, “On Marriage”)
Raising kids is difficult and exasperating; people shed tears and say things they don’t mean, doors get slammed, and the Beagle hides behind the couch. All that gives you the opportunity to utter two phrases that make this life worth living: once upon a time (stories) and I’m sorry (forgiveness).