I can’t remember when exactly but at some point in our marriage we realized we don’t fight well, not that fighting is something we like to do, but should the need arise, we’d like the tools to fight fairly. We both feel it’s important for our marriage and any relationship really.
We were raised differently and those differences have been engrained in us, they dictate how we fight and can make it hard for us to really hear what the other person is trying to convey. I tend to shy away from confrontation, usually deciding that backing down is the better way to go and my husband is a debater, a talker, always up for discussing. We both want to be better communicators and relationship models for our kids and that drove us to seek help in the form of a book to head off any BIG issues and strengthen our marriage in general.
So, a few months back we headed to Barnes n Nobles with the kids, grabbed a cup of tea, and set up camp in the relationship section, flipping through books looking for “the one” while the kids play on their borrowed piano books. Let me tell you, there are oodles and oodles of relationship books, we’re talking tons, and my husband and I have very different ways of learning so settling on one proved to be a bit of a daunting task. Wait, was this a test? Was picking out a book part of the bigger picture? We were elbow deep in the book search (warning this post is about to take a detour for a funny story, I’m sitting here laughing just thinking about it). So, here we are 30 minutes in and elbow deep in our book search, both looking for the perfect book, when a youngish, single man approaches us and starts making small talk, kind of strange but hey, maybe he was just looking for a friend. And then I glanced over and saw that the sex books are directly next to the relationship ones, well, this just got awkward rather quickly, with titles like “Spice Things Up”and “Bedroom Talk”. So, I am desperately trying to make eye contact with Josh, my husband, who is either totally oblivious to my recent discovery or not bothered by it, so he continues to politely talk to the gentleman while I continue my search, now desperate to just pick a book and go. What started as a team task has now turned into me hurriedly deciding on a book so we can leave. I feel like I should tell you a little about my husband, he can’t be rude to strangers, he just can’t, if he answers the door and it’s a salesman he won’t say no, he politely listens while they talk through their entire script, this stranger might as well be a salesman at our door. Josh is now answering questions about our kids and I am dying inside, seriously honey, we may need to work on more than just our fighting skills, like maybe how much we divulge to weird strangers no matter how nice they appear to be. Ahhhh! I quickly narrow it down to two books and politely try to get Josh to say goodbye to his new “friend”, asking him to decide between the two, he thumbs through both and we decide on a book titled “Fighting For Your Marriage”, fitting title right?
We make our way away from Josh’s new friend (as I have decided I want no part in this friendship) and head towards the register as I try to persuade Josh to maybe not be quite so friendly in that aisle, we have a good laugh about it and when we get home set the book on our shelf…and there it sits, until we move and it’s packed into a box, then unpacked in a timely manner, where it sits again for 2 more months…until finally, Josh asks if we are ever going to read it. Good question! We decide a unanimous yes and schedule a home date once a week for marriage time, Monday nights.
Well, it’s been 4 weeks since we committed to marriage dates, but really 3 because we missed last week. The book has been interesting and helpful, it talks about filters that we all have and how those filters can skew what we put out and the amount of information we’re able to take in, in all relationships, not just marriage. For example if you have an assumption filter thinking your partner will react or reply a certain way, you convey that in your tone and cause them to react the way you assumed they would, it’s mind boggling and I’m totally guilty of it. There are five filters in total and last night there was an exercise at the end of the chapter where you go through and discuss each filter; are you affected by said filter, how does it affect what you bring to the relationship, what are some ways you can avoid the filter coming into play knowing that it’s there, etc. And all be darned if in the middle of learning to fight fairly we didn’t have a mini “fight” while discussing these filters, here we are trying to add some tools to our relationship tool box and those very tools are turning us against each other. What in the world?!?! In the books defense it didn’t say to bring up old examples of arguments for the exercise, that may have been our first mistake, the second one being that it was almost 11:00 and the third being both our blood sugar levels were unacceptably low.
But all is not lost, we may only be a few chapters in but we must be learning something because no one went to bed upset and we both woke up still liking each other which means, either we’re learning something or neither one of us wants to go back to the bookstore for fear that Josh’s “friend” will be there =)
Kate (just in case Josh’s “friend” is reading this I’d rather not disclose my real name)