I majored in communication is college. Mostly because my best girlfriend at the time said I should and I really had no other solid ideas of what do at the time anyhow. At 19 years of age, when I became engaged to Mr. Wonderful…David…I remember telling him this:
“If you’ll just keep talking to me. If you’ll just always tell me what’s going on and be willing to work with me, I think we can get through anything.”
Now I look back and think, “Pretty right on the money for a 19 year old.”
Over the last 22 years together, David and I have had many “discussions.” I’m being honest when I tell you that we don’t fight much, but when we do have a disagreement, it only took me about 15 years to discern what would make me so mad right off the bat. I’m sharing this with all of you…not to slam my sweet, wonderful, amazing husband… But to HOPEFULLY save any of you who do this same thing to your spouse when you are “discussing” things.
Let me also say that once I RECOGNIZED this challenge and explained it to David, he very quickly worked hard to stop the habit and I can tell you that NOW, he NEVER does this anymore. Ever. And our “discussions” are even more infrequent!
In the past, when I would bring up a problem…let’s say it was David’s work hours…I would start off with how thankful I was for his hard work. (Lesson #1 in relaying your challenge in a loving way to your spouse: start off with something GOOD). I would tell him that I was really struggling with needing a little help in the evenings, and would he be able to just come ho….
And there I lost him. As soon as he heard anything about something he was doing wrong in my mind, he went into zone defense mode. He stopped hearing everything I said and began arguing in his mind or with his mouth…and never heard another word I uttered.
Which would make me pretty upset! If I am telling you I have a problem, you can’t defend yourself about how I feel! That doesn’t even make any sense! You’re so busy defending yourself that you don’t even come across at all as caring about what my problem is! Hold on hoss! Stop and listen!
This realization came one particular evening when I was about 8 months pregnant (and rendered immobile from a fall down the stairs which resulted in a broken pelvis…oh, yeah, and I only had 10 other children to care for) and David was working nearly round the clock holding down three jobs. He was doing an incredible work for the sake of our family, but I needed help and needed him to put everyone else’s work demands in their proper priority. When I came to him to discuss it, and he immediately began to defend himself, I just lost it.
I needed him to hear me.
To comfort me.
To show me just by listening that he appreciated me and cared if something was bothering me…
Not just throw up a wall and begin defending.
And when I broke down in tears, he finally stopped.
“Why are you crying?” He looked shocked. I don’t cry often. This must be a big deal.
“BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! YOU’RE JUST DEFENDING!”
Well that only took 15 years.
So I share this story with you to hopefully spare you the 15 year “figure it out while messing it up” time that this challenge cost us.
When your spouse is telling you something is wrong, even if you disagree…do not let zone defense be your default setting. Stop. Listen. Ask questions. Take criticism. And empathize. Apologize. If you’re always just trying to be right, you’re not really putting the relationship ahead of yourself. And when you can put the needs or feelings of your spouse above your own defense, you will have proven to them that you love them more than you love being “right.”
And that will deflate over 75% of the misunderstanding or argument right there!
**A generous donor has made the conference call this Monday (12/15) at 9:00pm EST FREE for the first 100 callers! Sign up and submit your questions as David and I answer questions pertaining to marriage and family!**