Step 5 – Be Prepared
The Boy Scout motto is – Be Prepared. As an Eagle Scout myself, incorporating that motto has helped me across a variety of scenarios in my life. In a nutshell, this motto suggests that you look ahead and anticipate the possible issues that could arise in a given situation. For something like camping, that means looking at the weather forecast and packing foul weather gear. In terms of emergency preparedness, it might include having a first aid kit, smoke alarms and a family escape plan from your house. In most instances it pays to look ahead and plan for contingencies. It is much better to be prepared for a situation when it arises as opposed to having to scramble to improvise a solution in the heat of the moment.
This is every bit as true for marriage as it is in other aspects of life. Let’s look at one issue that every couple goes through from time to time: conflict. Disagreements within a marriage are inevitable. When two distinct personalities come together there are going to be times when they don’t see eye to eye. In the heat of an argument, our natural tendency is to try to convince our spouse that our perspective is superior and our thoughts should be pursued. When a conflicting line of thought is raised, it needs to be “shot down” as it must be inferior. Tensions raise, the volume increases and judgment ensues. Sometimes these issues get heated. In these times, words may be said that cause damage to the relationship. While apologies may follow later, the damage has already been done.
How often have you been in a situation like this with your spouse only to look back later and wonder how things escalated so quickly? Sometimes you wonder what you were even fighting about. It started out as one thing and quickly morphed into another. In reality, this situation is really no different than being in a smoke-filled home and wondering how to get out. Without a plan, everyone is running in a different direction. It’s tough to make good decisions in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high. That’s where preparation comes in.
So, how do you prepare for an argument? What if in a calm time you and your spouse were to sit down and openly discuss conflict? Talking about it in a calm time would allow each of you to express your opinions of how arguments unfold, and where they often derail. You may also discover that you each have a distinctive style of confrontation, which on the surface may be incompatible.
An example of this would be when one partner wants to get things off their chest as soon as they arise and the other is more contemplative. When they hear something new, they need time to process it before they can react. In this case, the first partner tries to force the issue to quick resolution before the second has really considered all the options. This can lead to an argument, even if the latter partner might ultimately agree if just given the time to process. Suddenly the argument is not really about the topic initially raised at all…
Imagine discussing this scenario in a relaxed manner. When both of these perspectives are raised (when no issue is at hand) the couple can realize and agree to fight differently. The spouse can still raise issues, but now understands they need to give their partner time to process and think before they begin serious discussion. This could become a “rule” that is followed in the marriage.
Other proactive guidelines can be established as well and followed by the couple. Examples could include things like:
- Never threaten divorce
- Avoid words like “always” and “never”
- Focus on the issue not the person
There are many more that you might create within your marriage. Having these in place will change the way you argue forever.
Proactivity need not stop at conflict however. What if you developed guidelines to guide you through parental issues before you face them (e.g. discipline, curfews, allowances, etc.). Imagine how much better your marriage will be if you are in agreement on these items before you’re approached by your child needing an immediate answer. Other areas could be covered as well, from financial management, to communication, even to intimacy!
Being prepared for a situation before it arises puts you a great step ahead and, when combined with the previous four steps, will help you to create a shocking marriage.
Note: Jerry McColgin’s first book in his Shocking Marriage Series – “Rules of Engagement” will be released this spring. In it, he details out a proactive approach to creating the types of rules and guidelines described in this post. Watch for it on on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/shockingmarriage or on Amazon.com