Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wedded Wednesday: Disagreements

Whimzie (a friend who knew us both in college) asked:

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).

21 comments:

Lauren said...

Oh I love wedded Wednesdays! Parenting is the area where we disagree most often also. I'm the disciplinarian, mostly because I'm home more. I think I lean toward the stricter side, but I know my husband doesn't think so. Every once in a while he'll dole out the consequence and I (try) not to say a word. And, like you said, we are different people and different people have different consequences. God gave us these three kids for a reason. I'm hoping it's because we will be good for them.

p.s. this is really Adrienne, apparently signed in under my daughter's name!

Carpool Queen said...

You must live in our house. It's the number one cause of our disagreements, and while I haven't peeled out of the driveway in my minivan, I've left skid marks over my husband's heart over some of the things that I've spat out in the heat of anger and frustration.

I try to remember that God uses both of us to teach our kids, and while I may disagree from time to frequent time over a differing parenting style, the truth is, it has been a good avenue for us to improve on our communication.

Ali said...

Thanks for the great post! I think in marriage we realize that we are different people but, we are on the same team! I thought the quote you put in your post about the pillars of the temple and the tree's was awesome! I think you are right Meredith that our kids need our differences to give them a balance and deep love! I'm really enjoying your posts on marriage! Love hearing the perspective from a couple who has been happily and honestly married nearly 20 years! :)

~ Ali

O Mom said...

Loving wedded wednesdays too.

This was heart felt. I didn't have anywhere near a "normal" childhood and sometimes my little girl ideals of what marriage should look like, skew what is reality. I want us to get along every second and never disagree and think every argument we have is going to damage the children......I forget about the forgiveness and the admiting we're wrong part and the love that follows....maybe that's the part they'll remember the most.

Gina said...

Mer (And John), this is my FAVORITE feature on all the blogs I read!
I loved your advice! My husband and I couldhave written it- if we managed to gwt a kid free moment and managed to write so eloquently...

Any way, LOVE IT.

Elizabeth said...

I am enjoying these marriage posts so much. It's helpful to read advice from a couple who has been married a long time and who is committed completely to that union. You guys are honest and sensitive about how hard marriage is, and I appreciate it.

Cathy said...

I'm like Mer. My hubby's like John.

I SO appreciated what you said here! BOTH of you. Even in your answers and writing you showed your unique styles and personalities and the fact that they BOTH spoke something slightly different but both good to me is proof that you compliment eachother in parenting as well. I especially appreciated what John said about "horse feathers". I try to be controlling and get my husband on MY PAGE instead of appreciated how God made us differently and working WITH those differences.

Cathy said...

I really should proof read before I hit "publish your comment"....

Tiffani said...

Well, I am like John, my Hubs is like you...

We especially go at it because I am with them 24/7/365 practically and I tend to think I know them better...

I am so lovin' hearing what y'all have to say on these subjects!!

ps--the picture choices each week are cracking me up!

Mama Voss said...

I needed to hear this. We have three children and decisions and consequences are getting more and more difficult. It is so nice to hear that there are other couples who argue, disagree, hurt each other with their words, yet come back to one another a stronger unit.

Main Street Mom said...

By the number of responses, looks like so many of us can relate....thanks for your transparency. It made me feel like it is ok to have the differences and not totally be on the same page...and allow Him to work it out!

New Every Morning said...

I grew up in a beautiful Christ-centered home which was wonderful. However, I never saw my parents disagree (not that they didn't, they just kept it hidden). When my hubby and I had our first disagreement -probably the first week of marriage- it scared me to death... I thought we were headed to divorce. I thought that "good" marriages never disagreed. Hah! (we've enjoyed wedded bliss for over 14 years)

I loved this post. Thank you for being so real.
Hugs!

Gretchen said...

I can never get a handle on my style or Doug's because we flip. At times, he's lenient, and full of grace. At times, he's strict and full of grace. And I try to think I'm full of grace, but sometimes, I'm just full of it. It's a HARD job, and sometimes I just don't distance myself enough to make the best decisions. I take the kids' stuff far more personally than he. Is that a guy/girl thing? He's not a perfect father, but he's such a good one. And yet, we do disagree here and there. Usually because it's important for me to be right.

whimzie said...

I'm with the Gretchens who commented above me.

I've heard "experts" say you should never argue in front of your children. While I agree that it's not best to discuss all your stuff in the presence of the kids, I think it's important for our kids to know that we have conflict and then demonstrate how conflict can be resolved.

We're like the other Gretchen at our house. K and I take turns being the bad cop, I think.

I'm loving these posts and continue to appreciate you guys just laying it on the line so honestly and transparently. You're an encouragement to us all, I think.

Rosey Pollen said...

Love this post...someone wise once said" Forgiveness is forgetting."
I am working on that!

Kecia said...

I'm just now trying to catch up on a bunch of your answer posts--so interesting! I have to agree that you and John definitely seem to balance each other out. And you both make me smile! (Or crack up, as the case may be)

carylite said...

okay Mer, I really do have a twin and we were seperated at birth. I got so tickled reading your response. (clue "tickled" your twin lives in the South.) so funny, and so good to know there are happy imperfect couples.

Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt said...

Where are you getting those photos? They're hilarious!

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Becca~TimeWellSpent said...

just loved this. I'm the one who is much stricter and Mark is the one who is more lenient. Drives me crazy but somewhere we usually meet in the middle.

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