It’s happened again. You and your man are sitting on opposite ends of the couch. Or, perhaps, worse — opposite ends of the house. Or even worse — you’ve decided to take an actual, “I’m going for a walk” break. The silence between you is crushing — soul-crushing. Relationship-crushing. Life-crushing.
Conflict is unavoidable in relationships, and actually necessary. How many times have you heard that where there is conflict, there is life? This is true. We aren’t perfect people, and we aren’t going to agree. The beauty and challenge of relationship is the act of two people who at times have completely different opinions and world views coming together and finding common ground. That doesn’t happen without conflict.
But then there are those conflicts where you are literally sitting there going, “How did we get here? How did this happen? Things were fine and then, suddenly, they weren’t.”
Conflict is actually the sign of a healthy relationship — it shows that two people are growing, changing, and still have a strong sense of self-identity and self-worth. No woman should be a doormat, and no man should be a dictator. We all have opinions and feelings that need to be heard within relationship. At the same time, not all conflict is healthy, and sometimes external factors have a huge role to play in how we interact with each other.
Never in the history of writing would I ever counsel a wife to be silent. I’m a firm believer that our voices as wives have a lot of power with our husbands. In my own marriage, I’ve noticed how my input is of value and even needed as my husband leads us forward. We journey together and what I have to say is important. But there are times when I have definitely seen my words cut my husband to pieces — and times when his words have done the same to me. Usually these words emerge not out of a desire to hurt, but out of other circumstances that make words that are usually life-giving actual words of death.
As a result, I have learned there are four key moments in our daily lives when it would actually be wiser to weigh the truth of our words before just saying them. There are times when our silence would serve us better.
When my husband and I were in counseling to learn how to communicate better, our counselor taught us the acronym H.A.L.T. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are the four areas where conflict usually arises in a day-to-day relationship. Let’s go do a deeper level to understand each of these of areas.
For example — while writing this article this morning, my husband and I had conflict. Of course we did — it was 9:30 in the morning and we hadn’t eaten yet! Rather than letting conflict snowball, we should have just declared a time out, had some breakfast, and then figured out whether this was something worth fighting about. Sometimes conflict can simply be solved by realizing, “It’s dinner time, we haven’t eaten, we’re both starving and blood sugars are low, and we JUST NEED A SNICKERS BAR!” (There’s a reason why those commercials are funny…it’s because sometimes they’re true!) This is an example of how hunger can sometimes fuel unnecessary conflict.
Let’s be honest ladies — there are days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and everything annoys us. Maybe it’s because of a dream we had, maybe it’s because we’re feeling stress or pressure, or maybe it’s that time in our monthly cycle — but we wake up angry. There are days when everything grates like nails on a chalkboard, and we need to realize that maybe we need to take a walk, journal, or pray, rather than explode at our husbands. (I realize, by the way, that I’m talking to myself when I say this.) We need to recognize the difference between anger that is fueled by an injustice or a wrong, and anger that comes as a result of bad attitudes.
The reality is that, if we’re fortunate enough to have husbands who work hard, there will be times where we are alone. This loneliness is sometimes necessary. My husband works as a filmmaker, for example, so there are nights where he has late meetings, shoots, etc. We work hard to figure out how to stay connected during those times, but it can be difficult. It can be even harder if your husband doesn’t necessarily have that work ethic, but still disappears for hours at a time, either out with his friends or into his man cave. Loneliness is something we can experience as wives, and we need to realize the difference between necessary and unnecessary loneliness. Sometimes we can express our loneliness in ways that are loving — and sometimes we can turn into the nagging wives that we are all afraid of being.
We need to recognize the difference between the two types of loneliness, and express our emotions in healthy ways. If we are experiencing loneliness because of our husband’s diligent work ethic, maybe we need to focus on being grateful for hard-working husbands, and learn to express our loneliness in constructive ways.
How many times have you and your husband gotten into a fight at 11:30 at night? It may be that you have a legitimate reason for your conflict, but the reality is that things look worse the later the day gets. What might be a simple misunderstanding at 9:30 in the morning becomes a huge blowup at 11:30 at night. There are times where my husband and I have had to say, “It’s late, this is becoming a bigger thing than it needs to be, let’s take a break and talk about it in the morning.” There’s a verse in the Bible that says that you shouldn’t let the sun go down on your anger. A lot of couples interpret this to mean, “Fight until you work it out, even if you have to fight all night.” Sometimes this can be the worst thing you can do! You’re left exhausted, tired, worn-out, and burned-out. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let’s take a truce or a time out and hold off until the morning. I love you, and I want to work it out.”
Can you understand why we might not want to have a conversation with our partner if we’re one of these things? Imagine if we were all four! Deep or intense conversations that start with one of the above adjectives never ends positively. Conflict will inevitably fill your home and make all that you’re feeling worse. As wives we need to recognize how we are feeling, realize when sometimes our emotions can be affected by external factors, and measure our words so that whatever conflict we have is healthy and can lead to a stronger marriage.
“She who guards her lips guards her life, but she who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Prov 13:3
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