Sunday, May 26 2024 - 12:34 AM
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Why Married Couples Fight

I believe at the heart of every deeply dysfunctional conversation—whether you do it “nice” and restrained or just trumpeting your fury with the raging carelessness of a bull—are three lies. Now when I say at the heart, I don’t mean in the head. In the head, reasons are the thoughts flying through your brain, ready for takeoff. These would be the excuses, the details, formed into the actual words that you choose. I’d bet all the tea in Japan that our head reasons are pretty shallow. If you’re in a funky heart space, you can change the subject ten times and still find yourself railing on the other person from your head.

The heart question we have to ask ourselves—what we’re attempting to do in this short read—is why the emotion? Why the intensity? Why the freaked-out feelings of overwhelming helplessness or danger? The answers to these deeper questions will pop the cork on our pent-up frustrations. As it has often been said, the difference between a conversation and a fight is the absence and then the presence of triggered emotions.

Triggered Emotions

Triggered emotions? Yes. If, like me, you’ve been married less than two years, and your dear new spouse acts or says things that make you feel deeply stirred (in a non-romantic way), where do those feelings come from? If you gauge their sheer strength and pervasive force rushing through your soul, they are something deeper than your spouse could ever have created. Think about it. Two years is not enough time to feel such a colossal depth of negative emotion toward this person.

I’ve met many couples. Before I was married, most of them would smile, sort of squint, and then say how marriage is not very easy or even more telling, like enjoy your singlehood. Now that I’m hitched, I can’t help but think these people were all referring to the same thing. Anywhere but marriage, we can run and hide from our gargantuan emotions. But, sadly, marriage dredges up the deepest of them, and we’re just plain stuck. If divorce isn’t an option for us, then we gaze off into the dark blue yonder of emotional tensions and eruptions.

The stuck part is good, though. I’ve never—not ever, ever—grown up and healed in an area of my heart without being stuck. My comfort zone has always been my dearest ally, and I have never parted with him unless I had to. So, just as the last three jobs grew me, my marriage is growing me. Doug and I are committed to growing up. We know there are these crazy emotions and lies we have to deal with, and we’re sure that passing through them as soon as possible is the best way.

Deep Lies of the Heart

And so it is that I have uncovered three deep lies of the heart. These are lies cloaked in deep long emotions from my earliest days on planet earth. These lies drive every fight Doug and I give into. We sound different. Our head knowledge is different, and so are our words, but the emotional confusion and negative energy are ridiculously the same. First, there is the lie that I am not good enough. Then there is the lie that I am not lovable. Third, there is the lie that I am bad, that something is wrong with me (this we call the feeling of shame), and there’s nothing I can do about it.

If you ponder these lies, you will find one common theme. They are identity lies. Lies that tear down my personhood. That is why they’re so devastating. Clinging to my heart from the earliest experiences of human weakness and unkindness, these lies have sucked in every negative experience and strengthened their position in my psyche. Like a good scientist looking for evidence, these lies have defined others’ fumblings as proof of my bad self. Proof that I’m not good enough or lovable at all.

And so then enters the man who I am now one with. Yes, all my husband has to do is trigger that lie, and CHAZZAM! I’m completely triggered to the tips of my toes. Yes, and you know the rest of the story. I then immediately defend myself like he’s the enemy, deflect the sentiments and put them on his person, or worse yet, blame him (this feels very right at the time), and hide my junk like I’m not all choked up in this weed of lies around my soul.

Restored to the Truth

But this all must be seen for what it is and processed. So next time you have that good old feeling of a fight coming on, how about thinking on an emotional level? How about trying to speak on an emotional level? These are two ways to deal with your emotional confusion. Yes, and once you master this, you can acknowledge it, pray about it, and know that one more piece of you has been restored to the truth every time you’re triggered. And this is the truth: You are good enough. You are lovable, and you are good. Sure the behavior has to go. But since when does behavior have anything to do with identity? We don’t have to fight. We can talk, grow, and heal. Yes, and this is the point of marriage, to be sure.

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If you liked this, you might also like A Brilliant Idea | 10 Christian Marriage Rules for Handling Conflict 

Claire Worley writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Claire Worley

Claire Worley

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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