Matrimonial MinefieldsConstant Conflict and Criticisms
Different Types Of FiltersLet’s look at five types of filters that can affect couples asthey struggle for clear communication:1. Distractions (noise, cell phones ringing, TV)2. Emotional states (Bad day at work)3. Beliefs and expectations (We see what we expect to see)4. Differences in style5. Self-protectionMarkman, Howard J.; Scott M. Stanley; Susan L. Blumberg (2010-03-18). Fighting for Your Marriage:A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce(p. 91). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.
The best defense against allowing filters to damage your relationship is to acknowledge the filter when you are aware that it’s there.TOM: This bill for the phone company got missed again.We better get this paid.MARTA: (snapping with anger) I’m not the one who forgotit. Can’t you see I have my hands full? Do somethinghelpful.TOM: I’m sorry. Should’ve seen you were busy. Rough day?MARTA: Yes. I had a very frustrating day. I don’t mean tosnap at you, but I’ve had it up to here. If I’m touchy, it’s notreally anything you’ve done.TOM: Maybe we can talk about it some after dinner.MARTA: Thanks.
Without using the word “filter,” Tom and Martaacknowledged one was there. Marta had a bad day andwas on edge.They could have let this conversation escalate into anargument, but Tom had the good sense to see that hehad raised an issue at the wrong time. He decided not toget defensive and chose to become gentle with Marta inher frustration.Marta responded by telling Tom, in essence, that shehad a filter going—her bad mood. Knowing this helpedhim be less defensive in reaction to her mood.
Beliefs And ExpectationsThis next example shows how difficult it can be to getaround filters involving beliefs and expectations. Alexand Helen are a couple who came to one of our couplesretreats. They were having problems deciding what to dofor fun when they had free time. But they rarely got their act together to get out anddo something, so both were feeling emotionallydisconnected and frustrated. This conversation wastypical for them. Note how each acted as if they couldread the mind of the other:Markman, Howard J.; Scott M. Stanley; Susan L. Blumberg (2010-03-18). Fighting for Your Marriage:A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce(pp. 96-97). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.
ALEX: (really wanting to go bowling, but thinking that Helenwas not interested in going out and doing anything fun together)We have some free time tonight. I wonder if we should try to dosomething.HELEN: (thinking that she would like to get out but hearing thetentativeness in his voice and thinking he really doesn’t want togo out) Oh, I don’t know. What do you think?ALEX: Well, we could go bowling, but it could be league night,and we might not get in anyway. Maybe we should just stay inand watch TV.HELEN: (thinking, “Aha, that’s what he really wants to do.”)That sounds good to me. Why don’t we see what’s on cabletonight? Maybe there will be something good.ALEX: (He’s disappointed, thinking, “I knew it. She reallydoesn’t want to make the effort to get out and do something
In this conversation, there was no escalation,invalidation, or withdrawal. Nevertheless, the couple didnot communicate well due to the filters involved.Alex’s belief that Helen doesn’t like to go out coloredthe entire conversation so much that the way he askedher to go out led her to think that he wanted to stay in.He “assumed” that she really didn’t want to go. That’scalled mind reading.Markman, Howard J.; Scott M. Stanley; Susan L. Blumberg (2010-03-18). Fighting for Your Marriage:A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce(p. 97). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.
Different StylesSue and Tod came from very different families. Hisfamily has always been very expressive of all manner ofemotion. They tend to show great intensity whenemotional. It’s just their way.Sue’s family has always been more reserved. As a result,a slight raising of the voice could mean great anger inher family, whereas it would hardly be noticed in Tod’s.In many conversations, therefore, Sue wouldoverestimate the intensity of Tod’s feelings, and Todwould underestimate Sue’s feelings.
TOD: What did it cost to get the muffler fixed?SUE: Four hundred and twenty-eight bucks.TOD: (intense, getting red quickly) What? How couldthey possibly charge that much! That’s outrageous.SUE: (lashing out) I wish you could stop yelling at me!I’ve told you over and over that I cannot listen to youwhen you are yelling!TOD: I am not yelling at you. I just can’t believe it couldcost that much.SUE: Why can’t we have a quiet conversation like otherpeople? My sister and brother-in-law never yell.TOD: They don’t talk about anything, either. Look, fourhundred and twenty-eight dollars is too much to pay,that’s all I’m reacting to.
SUE: Why don’t you take the car in next time? I’m tiredof being yelled at for things like this.TOD: Honey, look. I’m not upset at you. I’m upset atthem. And you know I can get pretty hot, but I’m nottrying to say you did anything wrong.SUE: (calming down) Well, it seems that way sometimes.TOD: Well, I’m not upset at you. Let me give that placea call. Where’s the number?
Self-ProtectionThis filter is operating when our fear of rejection stopsus from saying what we truly want or feel. Even a question as simple as “Wouldn’t you like togo see that new movie with me?” can reflect a fear ofrejection. Instead of expressing our desire directly (“I’dlike to see that new movie; want to go?”), we often hideit because directly speaking of it reveals more of who weare, and that increases the risk of rejection. This may not matter a lot when it comes to movies,but when it comes to feelings, desires, and expectationsin marriage, a lot of misunderstanding can result.
Matrimonial MinefieldsWearing Your Feelings On Your Sleeves 1 Cor. 13:4-7
Matrimonial MinefieldsFailing To Meet TheNeeds of Our Mate
If You Don’t, Who Will?How many marriages have been wrecked becausesomeone else stepped in to feed the starving needsof our mates? Phil. 2:3ff
A Good Thing Can Become A Bad ThingGood Things About Internet—GBN, HTH, etc.Bad Things:1. Pornography (Job 31:1; Psa. 101:3; Matt. 5:28)2. Chat Rooms (Phil. 4:8)3. A Thief Of Family Time (Eph. 6:4)
Matrimonial MinefieldsBlaming Your Mate For Your Grief
Betsy and Kirk had been married twelve yearswhen they experienced the death of their nine-year-old son. He was killed instantly by anautomobile as he rode his bicycle from thedriveway into the street. In my first conversation with Betsy, less thansix hours after the accident, I discovered the seedsof blame. She said, "I had just told Kirk last weekthat he needs to spend more time with Andrew, talkingwith him about safety rules for riding his bicycle. If Kirkhad talked with him, maybe this would not havehappened."
Later, in talking with Kirk, I sensed a similarattitude. "I have never liked this place," he said. "I toldBetsy two years ago that I wanted us to get a little farm.I dont like raising kids in the city. Its too dangerous. Iwish I had listened to my heart." Two months later, in another conversation, Ifound Kirk rehearsing the same message again. "Ijust wish we would have moved to the farm two yearsago. Betsy resisted the idea. She said it was so muchmore convenient in the city, but there is more to lifethan convenience."
The following week I met with Betsy and foundthat she, too, had been playing the same messagein her mind for two months. "If only Kirk hadtalked to Andrew about safety rules, maybe Andrewwould still be with us."Betsy was blaming Kirk, and Kirk was blamingBetsy. They would not have said it directly to oneanother, but their attitudes revealed the truth.
I wish I could say that through counseling Kirkand Betsy changed their attitudes and foundcomfort and hope.The reality is that in less than a year theywere separated and shortly thereafter divorced,creating additional pain for their other two sons,ages five and seven.Negative attitudes led to negative behavior, whichended in bitterness and divorce.
Charles and Kelly experienced a very similartragedy, but with very different results. Andrea,their seven-year-old daughter, drowned in thebackyard pool while both parents were in thehouse. Charles and Kelly were planning to joinAndrea for a swim, but she jumped in before theyarrived. "She was a good swimmer," Kelly said, "andshe had never gone into the pool without our beingthere. That was one of our rules. I dont know whathappened."
I had several sessions with Kelly and Charles overthe next six months. Never once did I hear themblame each other, and never once did they blameAndrea. "She was just being a child,” Kelly said, with tearscoursing down her cheeks. "No need to blame her forbreaking our buddy rule. It wont bring her back."Deeply pained, Charles and Kelly talked their waythrough their grief, gave each other the freedomto cry, held each other tenderly, and survived theordeal with an even stronger marriage.Gary Chapman. The Four Seasons of Marriage (Kindle Locations 864-870). Kindle Edition.
Matrimonial MinefieldsFocusing On Only The Negatives