As we move along this month in our relationship series I am going to give tips and tools for you to use to improve you relationships.
One of the most important things we can do to keep a relationship healthy is to deal with hurts or negative feelings before they become buried. The reason for this is they usually don't become buried very deep and they turn quickly into resentment.
Negative feelings that get buried have a high rate of resurrection.
Which means they will come back up again, but probably in a very unhealthy manner. So how do we deal quickly with these hurts and feelings before they turn into resentment or worse begin to create a structure for the "four horsemen" we talked about in previous posts.
Les and Leslie Parrott in many of their relationship books talk about a tool that is helpful to quickly and safely express our hurts and disappointments to our spouse and for that matter anyone you are in relationships with.
It is called "Sharing Withholds" It only takes about ten to fifteen minutes. It is best to do this within 48 hours of the conflict or the hurt. You begin by thinking of two positives and the thing that happened within the last 48 hours that hurt or irritated you, then you take turns sharing them. One person shares all three statement one after the other - sandwiching the negative statement between two positives. Then the other person shares their three statements. Now the key to this is that the person on the receiving end can only say "thank you" after each statement. No explanation, defense or complaining. This allows a couple to share something that bugs them without fearing a blowup or a defensive reaction. It also give you an opportunity to share some compliment or positives that would never be said otherwise.
Now once you both share your withholds, neither of you can talk about the negative withhold for at least 30 minutes. The reason for this is that in that amount of time we become more rational and thoughtful. After that amount of time we are far less likely to have an emotional reaction.
The point of this is to clear the "emotional land mines" from your marriage by keeping you current and not allowing painful wounds, even minor ones to fester.
Now one side note to this is when you state your negative comment do not use criticism but state it in a way that expressed how this situation made you feel:
In situation X when you do Y I feel Z
Real life Example: (yes this really did happen)
Kathy: John, can we share withholds?
Kathy: Well, first I want to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that everyday you go to work and have difficult and stressful days to help keep us financially secure.
John: Thank you
Kathy: You know, last night when I was getting ready to do a bible study at our home and you opened the dishwasher door and became angry at the way I loaded the dishwasher that really made me feel hurt and sad
John: Thank you
Kathy: I also, want you to know that I have noticed and really appreciate the fact that you are really changing in the area of money and spending - I have seen you are much more generous and really opening up in that area.
John: Thank you
John: I appreciate all the great meals you make just about every night. I know I don't always mention it but it does really make me happy
Kathy: Thank you
John: When I saw the dishwasher so disorganized I just felt it was done without thought and could have been better organized and it make me feel frustrated
Kathy Thank you
John: I appreciate how you keep all our social connections together, I am not very good at that and it is really helpful to have you take care of all that.
Kathy: Thank you.
Now as we finished this dialog a few things were accomplished:
1. We complimented each other in a way we rarely would do under regular circumstances
2. We expressed a hurt without it exploding into a conflict - the immediate feeling is that you want to elaborate more or defend yourself but in about 30 minute it's all defused but you still had that opportunity to express how that situation hurt or disappointed you
3. You are both more aware of an area that can potentially hurt and harm your relationship.
Next time you feel hurt by your spouse instead of getting into a huge fight and allowing negative emotions to overtake you, try this exercise.
"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires."