I am not a music aficionado by any measure, but somebody recently reminded me that it was the old British rock group, The Kinks, who once popularized the following lament:
Well I met a pretty girl, as pretty as can be
I thought she was my baby till she introduced to me
A great big tall fella, about six foot tall
I shivered and I shook, couldn’t do any more
‘Cause I’m a lover not a fighter…
It’s just a silly song, of course, but I think this idea, that lovers can’t be fighters, is, in many ways, a faulty concept that’s been culturally ingrained. Our guests on today’s and tomorrow’s radio program, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, have strong feelings about the topic. Les is a clinical psychologist and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist. They believe that the key to a healthy marriage is good communication between spouses, and that includes dealing directly, openly and fairly with conflict.
I won’t give away the Parrott’s message, but here is a Cliff notes version of the discussion:
The success of your marriage is not based on how often you and your spouse spar, or even what you fight about, but rather, how you verbalize and express the disagreements themselves. In fact, Drs. Les and Leslie, along with Dr. John Gottman, have looked at how couples “fight” and identified four negative ways of dealing with conflict. By avoiding these patterns we can more positively engage and manage disagreements with our beloved.
Here are the four common and destructive ways in which we often deal with marital conflict:
1. Criticism: Are we blaming our spouse rather than looking inward at ourselves?
2. Defensiveness: Are we allowing our pride to get in the way of honest self-evaluation?
3. Contempt: Are we apt to assign a negative motive to our spouse’s actions rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt?
4. Stonewalling: Silence speaks its own language. Are we shutting down in order to try and make a point?
As I share on the program, as husbands and wives, how we handle conflict is the glue that either holds us together or rips us apart. As such, I think it’s a topic worthy of our attention. In fact, the advice on today’s program can be immediately implemented. Give a listen and give it a try! You’ll be glad you did.