May 1, 2020
Hey! Why not start out this post by sharing a little secret…When Cody and I were putting together a podcast and actually making steps to turn the dream into a reality, a little fearful voice kept popping up in my brain asking the same question over and over….what are you even going to talk about??
Cody and I knew we had a passion for marriage and we knew what we had learned as a couple. But we weren’t sure if we would really have that much to talk about. So we sat down and started to make a list of all of the things we felt really passionate about our lessons learned that were important to us.
And as we were making this list, something huge stuck out to us. This one word that we continued to use over and over. It is something that we initially learned in our premarital counseling and this one concept has carried us through many challenges and joys. That word was TEAM.
As a husband and wife, we are a team. Yes, that sounds cliche and overused, but we promise with the right imagery this one word can make an impact in so many areas of your marriage.
Today we are going to talk about facing issues as a team. No couple is immune to disagreements. It is inevitable that you will face some sort of a challenge together in the near future.
With that being said, tune in for our 4 tips for facing issues as a team!
#1 Know Your Emotional Response
The first suggestion is something that is so critical to how you and your partner will face arguments, but it is something that actually has to happen BEFORE you are faced with a challenge.
If you’ve been with your partner long enough to face a disagreement together, I want you to picture it now. Actually think back and remember what you were fighting about and how you were feeling in that moment. Our first tip is to know your emotional response to disagreements before another one happens.
This is really important information to know about yourself, regardless of whether you are facing a disagreement with your spouse, a coworker, or another family member. There are a variety of ways people may respond emotionally to a disagreement. Cody and I have found that we emotionally respond to disagreements by feeling alone, hurt, or stubborn.
Let’s preface by saying that we are only experts of our own issues, so you might think of a way you respond emotionally that doesn’t really match with how we respond, and that’s ok! In this episode we break down some of our past arguments or issues, in hopes that as we talk through our own emotional responses, you might be able to identify some of your own emotional responses.
This is an issue that came up only a few weeks ago! I was finished typing an email to our lovely graphic designer when I asked for an approval from Cody to read over it and send it. When Cody reviewed it, he changed some of my wording, with the intent of making the email clearer. But unfortunately I didn’t feel helped or supported, what I really felt was hurt and alone, like my way wasn’t good enough and it all needed to be changed.
Tune in to the episode to hear 3 other recent issues we faced and what our emotional responses were.
The reason it is important to review an issue and figure out how you respond emotionally is because it helps you to reduce the hurt that is caused during a disagreement. If I know I am usually stubborn and respond defensively, I can remind myself to take a breath and think before I speak. If I usually feel alone and freeze up during disagreements, I can remind myself that my partner loves me and wants to work this out. Knowing your response before another disagreement is a great way to be emotionally intelligent and self aware!
#2 Take a Break
This is a tip that I’ve taken from my years of teaching elementary school. You can only watch emotional 8 year olds try to solve an argument so many times before you start to see there is something crucial that they are missing. The fact is you can’t fix a problem if you are feeling too strong of emotions.
We teach this in simple terms to the students by having them use their hand as a brain. If you make a fist with your thumb tucked in between your palm and your fingers, you are showing a calm mind. Your fingers represent your prefrontal cortex, or the “thinking part” of your brain. You are calm and able to make decisions. But what happens when we experience strong feelings is our four fingers shoot up, or as we might call it, “flipping the lid.” The amygdala which is the “feeling brain” activates our fight, flight, or freeze response. We now are operating from a place of fear and strong emotions, and we lose access to our “thinking brain.”
The strategy we use in school is just what Cody and I use at home. If we recognize that we are in that fight, flight, or freeze situation, we take a break.
This took us a long time to figure out. At the start of our relationship when we were first faced with major disagreements or hurts, both of us would freeze. Like we would literally sit feet away from one another on the couch and not say a word for an hour. Now we laugh about it, but I remember in those moments seriously thinking thoughts like “How will we ever get through this?” or “There is no answer to this.”
It took us time after we had calmed down to realize that we didn’t want to operate that way anymore. It wasn’t beneficial for either of us and it left us feeling more hurt and misunderstood than we needed to be.
Now, we are very clear about our expectations for when we need to take a break. If we notice our tones have gotten a little too sassy, or if one of us is feeling too hurt to speak, we calmly state that we need to come back to this discussion at a later time. That might look like Andrea going to the bedroom while Cody stays in the living room. It might look like going for a walk and not talking.
We set a clear expectation of 5-10 minutes and then one of us checks up on the other if we haven’t come back together yet. This is our process because we know from our past we are likely to shut down and go into a negative spiral. Usually stepping back helps you to recognize that your emotions were running high and skewing your thinking. It has been invaluable to us that we stop and take a break if needed before we face an argument together.
#3 “You Are Fighting the Issue, Not Fighting Each Other.”
Our third point really is about that idea of teamwork. This was a phrase we learned in premarital counseling that helped to shift our perspective about what it means to argue or face an issue together. “You are fighting the issue, not fighting each other.”
When you are married, you and your spouse are on the same team. That means that arguments cannot be “me vs. you.” If that is the case, one of you has to lose. But in reality, if one of you loses, aren’t you both losing? We’ve come to realize especially when we are being stubborn that even when one of us “wins” an argument, we usually walk away from that disagreement and in 10 minutes we feel terrible about ourselves.
When Cody and I are ready to fight the issue, not each other, we use the phrase “I’m for you.” In good things and through challenges, we are for one another. Cody and I are on the same team. If I’m for someone, and I’m on their team, I’m not going to try to score points against them, right? That is just crazy. As teammates, you have one goal and that goal is to come to an agreement or a conclusion.
Make sure to listen to the podcast episode to hear a practical example of how Cody and I spent time fighting each other, rather than an issue. You’ll see that once we faced the issue togehter as a team, this area of our lives actually became a thriving part of our days together!
#4 Communicate Clearly and Respectfully
Hopefully by the time you face your next issue together as a couple, you will understand how you emotionally respond to arguments, you will know to take a break if you need to calm down and think first, and you’ll have the perspective shift that you are combating the issue and not fighting each other. When the time comes and you are finally ready to talk it out, our last tip is to communicate clearly and respectfully.
Cody and I have vowed to never use statements that have the words “always” or “never” when we are facing a challenge. And what we mean is that we say those things and then we say, I’m sorry that’s not true. Because really, those statements aren’t true! Saying something vague and bold like “You never support me…” is just cruel and unproductive.
When Cody and I make statements about one another, it’s important to us that we have real examples or clear evidence. So saying something along the lines of “When you didn’t ask me about how my day was, I felt like I wasn’t important to you.” Or, “at times when we disagree your tone makes me feel belittled” can be much more productive.
We’ve also found that it is necessary to keep control of our emotions and insert truth into our disagreements. This means we will state things like, “I care about you.” “I love you.” “Let’s face this together.” while we discuss, so that we both feel supported and loved. This is why taking a break is so important. We make sure that if we differ in our opinions, we take the time to hear each other out respectfully.
To hear that your partner is feeling hurt when that wasn’t your intention is really hard. It can feel confusing and depressing. We suggest taking the time to listen to each other without interrupting. Don’t interrupt to validate or share your perspective. Just hear each other out. And then take time to think before you decide what to say. So much hurt is caused in relationships when couples don’t think before they speak, so you can respect one another by simply listening without interrupting.
Celebrate Your Growth
Cody and I can’t give you the answers to the issues or challenges you are facing. But what we have done is share the strategies that we have found most effective for facing disagreements as a team. The last piece of encouragement that we want to give you is to never forget to come together after a disagreement and acknowledge your success.
Maybe you finally were able to take a break and cool down and you didn’t yell in anger during a disagreement- celebrate that success! Whether it’s just a simple hug or kiss or a candle lit dinner, celebrate that you are overcoming challenges together hand in hand. Issues are inevitable in relationships, but by using these strategies you will overcome issues at a much faster and effective rate. By facing issues as a team your relationship will not only grow stronger but become more intimate.
Until Next Time…
We hope you enjoyed this episode of More than Marriage Podcast! If you liked this episode, do us a favor and leave us a review. That will help more people find us and be able to listen in!New episodes are dropping every Monday and we can’t wait for you to tune in next time. Until then, have an awesome week!!