Episode 72 – It’s Important to Fight Fair
Join Josh and kit as they discuss why it’s important to fight and especially to fight fair.
arguing does NOT mean failure
working towards restoring the relationship is what matters
when you sincerely listen to someone, that’s a gift.
John Gottman – The Four Horsemen
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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When our kids were little, I was remembering the other day that whenever we would have a conflict, we were disagreeing about something I’d like, you know, whispered or Greg has got a closet, then we’d run into the closet, we’d have it out and we’d talk, you know, and figure it out. And then we’d come back out and you know, everything would be fine again. And then lately, you know, our daughter’s at home, she’s 21 Greg and I have learned a lot about fighting fair. And so we’ll just have a disagreement, an argument in front of her and, and she’s, you know, she’s kind of just listening and watching engine and then, you know, she’s there for that. And then she’s also there, you know, half an hour later when things are fine, we’re eating dinner and we’re good. And so that, that’s a much healthier picture of, of marriage. And you know, conflict is inevitable. Um, and so how do you handle it? And hiding in the closet probably wasn’t the right way to handle it.
So let’s, we’re talking about that today. We’re gonna talk about fighting fair because I think you’re not alone. I mean, you think that what you’re describing kit in those early years of marriage or of having kids where you’re like hiding the closet, there’s this, this sense of like, we don’t want to fight for the kids because fill in the blank. Fighting is bad, Huh? And marriages. And so this podcast is specifically for husbands and wives. But listen, if you’re not married, this is about relationships too. So we are talking about marriage, but listen in because this is true. I think a lot of us feel like fighting is a bad thing if we’re fighting, it’s already a defeat. And that’s so untrue, I think. I think Christians can have us kind of an especially faulty view of that. Like we’re supposed to be living in harmony.
But the reality is that Jesus, Jesus had fights. Yeah, he disagreed. He argued with his disciples. He was, I mean it’s recorded in the gospels. The disciples wrote it down. There’s a, there’s good that can come out of arguing. So we’re gonna talk about that. So let’s start off with this though. What do you think Kit? Like why do we think it’s bad? Like what’s, what is the kind of that innate sense in us that we’re like, ah, this is a bad thing. We don’t, we don’t want, we don’t want to go there. What are we afraid of? What do we not like about it?
Well, for me as a people pleaser, I’m like, oh, this isn’t going to be pleasing people. If I’m, if I’m, you know, argumentative, you know that, that this is going to be bad. And so there was a fear, like if I bring this up, then they’re not going to love me. If I bring this up. They’re not gonna, you know, be happy with me when in reality, you know, I was just thinking about what do I,
what do I admire in a friendship or a relationship? I admire people who can lovingly disagree with me. I appreciate it. It teaches me, it helps us be healthier and stronger. What about, what about you? What do you think? I think what you just brought up is really important. I mean, I w I wanna uh, bears repeating cause I think there are a lot of us who have that deep sense of, I don’t want to argue because I don’t want to push this person away. And I think what we miss with that is that sometimes when we, when we fail to argue, when we try to just stuff down, there ends up being a lot of clutter between us and the other person that if we would just bring it up in the light and have a conversation about it and we’ll talk about how to do that in a fair way, in a little bit, but that would actually end up being closer to people.
So I think that’s w I think it certainly is one. I think another is, um, I think maybe this is true more for men than women or I don’t know if that’s fair, but I think some of us, like our experience with anger, is it’s either all the way on or all the way off. And I don’t trust myself to get angry in front of somebody else because I don’t want to hurt you. Yeah. Um, I experienced that. Like there are times where I just last night I was talking to my wife about something and, and I was angry and I didn’t, I wasn’t saying that but she said at one point she said, who are you angry at? And I just wanted to yell you, I’m angry at what I had. I was, you know, I was really like self-conscious about that. I don’t want to be angry with you and I’m not, I don’t trust that part of me.
Certainly, those of us that had, um, really traumatic experiences with anger and I had some with my dad, you know, and again, he, he got healthy later in life. But you know, anger scared me, right? Anger scared me. And so, you know, when early in our marriage, if Greg would get angry, it would make me go, oh no, now you know, this is bad. And so I think there’s just fear, fear of conflict, fear of anger. Um, and so, and we don’t know how to fight fair. We don’t. And so usually it escalates. It usually escalates into what you don’t like. Yeah. You know, the fighting unfair is not pleasant. And if that’s our experience of what it means to, to fight, we are like, well, I’d rather just not get into. That might even be a good instinct kind of behind it. A faulty kind of your description on how to deal with it.
And where do we learn to fight fair? Did you ever take a class in school? I don’t recall. I recall. Did you even ever remember, you know, a sermon or, you know, uh, a message at church where it was like, listen, this is important? This is important to God. This is important to relationships that are important to God. Let’s talk about fighting failure. So let’s, so let me go back to that too. Cause I think this is another reason, uh, if we could just articulate this a little bit more, that I think happens for quote-unquote good people. This kind of like, you know, we, we don’t fight, we get along. That’s the kind of people we are. And I think that there can be, I don’t know if that’s pride or if it’s fear or what’s kind of rooted in that even an immature or, or, um, faulty teaching or thinking about what it means to be a good person. Yeah. I think that’s really listeners who would kind of here and go, yeah. But I’m not like, I’m not that kind of person. I don’t want to, I’m, you know, I’m too nice. And
that’s so interesting. So what is that Josh? What is it that with the core of what we believe, like that kind of superficial notion of when you’re a Christian, you’re nice.
I, you know, I think if you were to, if you were to kind of edit out some of the harder scenes with Jesus, you might kind of think that’s the way he was like, and so that’s what we’re supposed to be. And I think there are certainly passages that talk about, you know, how good and pleasing is when brothers live together in unity. Yeah. Um, you know, like the, like the oil dripping down Aaron’s beard, um, you know, live as much as it depends on, you live at peace with all men. Yeah. Those are all good, good things. Yeah. I would, I think, I think the immaturity of just holding onto those things is the idea that those things just happen. Yeah. Without the fight, you know, like,
yeah, right. That we learned that we don’t learn it through brokenness and trial, you know?
Yeah. That you just like the crop comes up. You don’t have to play it, you don’t have to break open the ground to make it happen. You have to, you know, muddy the muddy things. You can just, yeah. It’ll just be, we’ll just speak if we’re good, if we just pray it, I’ll be good. Yeah. That’s just not, but I think a, a more robust look at the gospels and certainly the letter, I mean, Paul talked about, you know, which was it flippings where the, I can’t remember which, which of his letters, but he, he urges to people specifically look, get along. Yeah. Um, Jesus are, I mean, get behind me Satan, when he’s talking to Simon overturning the tables in the, in the temple. Yeah. Um, I mean, Jesus was not afraid to rebuke people and tell them when he thought they were wrong. Yeah. Um, when James and John said, hey, we, you know, could you reserve those seats next to you when your kingdom comes? And he’s like, nope.
And he doesn’t want us to pretend he doesn’t want us to make nice. He wants us to be real and honest and vulnerable and true. And, you know, in a broken world, there’s gonna be issues. And so what do we do with that? As, as people who are followers of Jesus who want to do it right in love.
Yeah, yeah. And, and recognizing that that arguing does not mean failure. Arguing does not mean your marriage is just bad. You’ve messed it up.
In fact, I would say that the times, and I think a lot of us could say the times in my marriage when we’ve had to really, um, struggle to understand each other’s struggle, to get on the same page about something, um, that when we did we, we were closer. It brought us to a different level of intimacy that we would have missed otherwise. Unfortunately, a lot of us give up in the fight, in the trial and go, this is too hard. Yeah. But if we can persevere and learn what God wants you to learn in that there is a strength of intimacy that comes at, you can’t find, apart from it,
I would guess that most people listening can think at least if some experiences they’ve had where work pressing through some difficulty, having a hard conversation, daring to bring that topic up that’s been bugging you for so long. Daring to stand up to someone and say, I don’t like what you’re doing. Right. I don’t agree with you. Um, or even like, you know, fighting through something with a spouse, um, where they’d say, you know, actually that actually did turn out better. We do get along better in that area. Yeah. So let’s, let’s shift gears. Let’s talk about fighting fair because you, I mean, even as we’re saying like, hey, yeah, go, if you’re married, fight no fight, you can hear the little, the distance of beats, you know, the of the, of the four horsemen coming. So, so let’s start there. We’re gonna talk about like ways that you do not want to fight. Ways that actually fighting in your marriage will wreak incredible destruction. And they want to talk about the opposite of that. What you can do. So yeah, talk, he talks about Gottman’s four horses.
Yeah. So John Gottman is a marriage researcher and psychologist and he’s just really a practical, insightful, um, guy. And he talks about four different, uh, ways that we communicate in conflict that’ll sync your marriage, Cinco relationship, and they are criticism.
And just to clarify, it’s, it’s all research-based stuff. So he’s not just saying, hey, here’s my opinion. You said, right. These four things exist in marriages that are, that don’t, that don’t last. If you want your marriage to last, the research says you gotta do these things. Yeah.
Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
Let’s talk about those. Yeah. That should be the title of a whole pocket. Let’s talk about contempt. Let’s talk about it. So criticism as opposed to complaint, he makes the distinction. And so give me some examples of criticism.
you never, you always, you know, um, so you know, you, you never at clean up after yourself, you always, um, whatever. And so a complaint is more like, one of the things I’d like to talk to you about, something that I, that I’m concerned about. Something that you do, something that you’ve said that hurt me or that I’m concerned about, that’s kind of registering a complaint where criticism is a personal attack. You know, it’s like a blanket, more of a blanket. You always, you never, um, you know, those kinds of things instead of like specifically trying to say something that would help them understand what exactly you’re talking about.
Yeah. Watch out for always and never always and never are never a good helpful. That’s true. I think there’s real, there’s real truth to that. I do think like is the other thing about, about switching to a complaint where forgiveness is needed, it’s a lot easier to forgive a specific offense than it is kind of a general yes. Hell yes. So it just can bring about resolution a lot easier when you’re just issuing a complaint and the next of his is contempt and we were talking about that a little bit offline. It’s the one that that kind of makes my skin crawl the most because it is. So, um, there’s, there’s a, there’s a, there’s an eval to it, but yeah, contempt is that kind of, it’s, it’s my, my, I’m not even criticizing a year behavior. I am attacking you, your character. Yeah. Your looks, how you do things, how you smell. I mean, you name it. Like if this is about you, you are, and then whatever the fill in the blank is and there’s, and there’s really not any, there’s no grace with contempt. There’s no, um, there’s no sense that, that the other person is growing or can change. It’s just, yeah. You know, it’s
what separates, you know, what’s different about contempt versus criticism is that contempt really is like an intentional, um, desire to insult. Hmm. And, and even like psychologically abuse your partner, like you really wanting to get at them and, and that’s dangerous. Um, but when you think about some of the behaviors around, um, contempt, you’d be like, oh, that’s contempt because we may not realize it, but these are the kinds of things that really, like, there is no place for contempt. You like, you can talk about like complaint versus criticism, but you can’t talk about, well maybe you could, you know, less than your cr your contempt, but no, contempt is not okay. And anytime, but you know, it’s insults in name calling. It’s hostile humor. I think there’s a lot of use of that in ways that we don’t realize is really cutting. I think there are versions of sarcastic. Yep. Absolutely. Much about contempt. Absolutely mockery. And then body language, you’re like rolling your eyes or you know, um, you know, just like scoffing or you know, some those kinds of things that are really, um, contemptuous. And so I think just being able to be aware of that and be careful about that. Really important.
Yeah. If you find yourself, I mean, I, you know, I know there are people who are listening to good wait, rolling my eyes. Like, oh, lead. Yeah. I mean those, if you find that you’ve got actually got some habits of contempt towards your spouse, yeah. When you find yourself doing it, you name it right. That and like that. Right.
That’s a big one for Greg and I would just, whenever you would do that, I’d be like, oh, please don’t roll your eyes. And he was like, but now we laugh about it. It’s like, Oh, don’t roll your eyes. You know? That’s it. It just got me, it felt really, he didn’t, I don’t think it was his intention, but it really, um, felt that way and it can, it can feel really, really cutting.
Yeah. I think one of the, one of the characteristics of the contempt that helps me keep my eyes on it is there is this is kind of a static nature or a belief that the other person is stuck where they are. This is just you and no one likes it. I don’t like it. You can’t change it, you know, you know? Yeah. And that’s, I think that’s the place where when I, when I find something like that rising up in me, I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, hold on, hold the phone. Like, yeah. So next up is defensiveness. Yeah. Um, and I think we, let’s unpack that a bit because yeah. Wait, what if I, if I’m being attacked, if we’re in an argument and like, why can’t I defend myself? We’re not talking about defending your, your position so much. Sometimes that isn’t a valuable thing to do, but defense and this is different than that kid. Can you kind of articulate what’s different about it?
Yeah. You know, I think it’s, I think it’s, um, you know, we’re, where you really are like denying any responsibility. You’re making excuses. Um, and instead of really trying to listen and really trying to empathize with the other person saying, you know, which is hard to do, especially if you’re feeling attacked. But again, that’s why these things work together. But you know, the idea is that you’d be like, okay, okay, okay, that’s hard for me to hear but I, OK, I can, I can, I’m listening, you know, and try to empathize and again, how your partner’s talking to you instead of you always in, you never, and you know, won’t be helpful, but it’s part of the fighting fair is using language that helps you be able to be like, okay, I can kind of see that.
Yeah. What do you mean defense? And is that kind of like all I’m doing, all I’m doing in this conversation just putting up a shield? I am, I am just holding my ground telling you again and again why I’m right. Repeating yourself over and over again. And that could go, you know, there can be volleys back and forth like that for hours between two spouses. Yeah. And what a difference you can make some times just to say, okay, hold on a second. Yeah. What I hear you saying is [inaudible] and then or, and owning what you can in that. Like I, there are times where I am and I’m right, I’m right as I’m arguing with my wife and it felt like she could understand like, and it’s easy for me, I think this is an easy way for me to go on and get s want to dig my heels in.
But if I can stop in that moment, Jesus help me and own what I can. It’s almost like sometimes there’s like just a little, a little movement like that of receptivity towards the other person can open a door that then they can walkthrough, you can walk through and, and there’s, there’s relationship again and that, that’s one of the things I think about all these foreign, we’ll get to the last one too, but I think none of them are working towards relationship. They’re all really working towards winning this fight, being right, being right. Yeah.
And, um, was Dallas Willard that said, you know, as a, as a sincere Christian, our, um, hope and desire isn’t to be right. Hm. You know, that that doesn’t, that doesn’t, you know, it shouldn’t be our thing, you know, like, well, all that matters is that I’m right. You know, what matters is the relationship. You know, and if you, if you really honor and value your spouse in this relationship, giving up on that being right will really help you be able to not do some of these things.
And we’re not, we’re not talking about giving up on truth or reality. We’re not talking about saying, okay, Oh, you know, you, you know, you’ve, you have kept, you’ve left the watermelon on the, on the table, the 10th night in a row, and I’m just gonna pretend like that’s not really like that. That’s what we’re talking at the beginning, which is ignoring the need for pretending. Right. Last one. Stonewalling. Yeah. I, I think this is probably the one I default to the most. I don’t mean to, but I think this goes back to it’s, it might be the easiest out of all four to sink into, especially for those of us who grew up kind of like, not wanting to argue. Um, at least for me, it’s the silent treatment. It’s the, um, you know, I, I’m not going to talk to you about this. It can be the cold shoulder. It can be passive-aggressive silence. It can, I think it can also these days be, I’m on my phone, you know, um, I’m trying to talk to you. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, it’s kind of passive, like I’m too busy to have this conversation. Yeah. So instead of having the argument instead of hearing other person, it’s, it’s pushing the other person away
and it’s a powerful act. Doesn’t maybe seem like it, but it’s a powerful act to just be a stonewall just to shut down. You know what I mean? When you sincerely listen to someone that’s, that’s a gift. And when you purposely don’t, that’s it’s disrespectful. And, and, and I think that, um, you know, it can, it can definitely, um, if it’s a common occurrence, it will definitely create a lot of distance between people.
I think stonewalling can be maybe a specially at a temptation where there’s a recurring issue. [inaudible] and when we lose hope, we feel like in this time, I’m not gonna change. You’re not hearing me. Yeah. So we just pull back and say, you know, screw it in essence.
Yeah. And, and if you continue to stonewall, then that’s exactly what will happen is you, you, you will lose hope because there’s no more conversation. There’s no more, you just shut down. It’s over. It’s done. You just, you fade away from each other.
Yeah. Yeah. So If I think, you know, you can read between the lines that we’ve offered some, like, here are some healthy alternatives. Um, but you know, one of the some of the, let’s just talk about some of the ideas of like, how, how can you do things these things differently? How can you fight fair? Yeah. Um, so what about the, you know, we could pick either any one of those, like when I’m prone to criticism or defensiveness or stonewalling or I’ve been in the pattern contempt, what can I do differently? Any other suggestions that you
like? You know, we talked a little bit before about this is something that could happen just in general in your communication. So it isn’t necessarily about it in the middle of a fight, but I just think this builds foundation, like all of these things don’t just happen. This isn’t just a behavior you all of a sudden try on that. One of the things that happens when you’re building foundation in your marriage is that you, there’s positive regard. Hmm. You know, when there’s positive regard for each other, then when you’re in the midst of a conflict, you’re going to be less likely to do some of these things. And one of the things that got been talks about, which I really love is this, um, paying attention to things that the other person, um, is experiencing as positive. So like, if I say to my husband, look at that beautiful cardinal and he’s looking the other way and going, hm, okay, that’s that sending a clear message. If he turns around and looks and goes, that is beautiful. Wow. And then, you know, walks toward, towards the window and there we have a moment where we’re really building something, um, a positive regard for each other that’s going to bleed into some of these other opportunities like, uh, or these other situations like stonewalling. You know, I think you’re going to be less likely to stonewall if you have had a positive experience with your spouse recently.
I mean, w what did, what a huge, huge difference. So you know, walking into a room and saying to your spouse, hey, can I talk to about something? Or Hey, this what happened to me today. And they’re, you know, putting the groceries away or doing something else or on their phone. It’s like, ah, really? Oh Wow. As opposed to that person, like putting whatever it is down and looking at you and maybe walking around the room and saying, really? Oh, tell me more about that or let me see. Yeah, I mean it’s just night and day. And I think practicing some of those things mean that, you know, do, do that intentionally, once a day and just watch what happens to your marriage. Yeah. I think a couple of things that have been helpful for me. One is, um, I statements, you know, when you did this, this is how I felt, not you did this and it made me feel this way.
That’s, that’s me placing my emotions on you, your response from my emotions, but just simply like, hey, yeah, I’ve asked you over and over again, could you please not load the top of the dishwasher this way? And when you keep doing it, I feel like you’re saying you have to reload the dishwasher. I don’t care about what you feel. Uh, that, that’s a very different conversation than, you know, you never do what I want. You don’t listen to me, you don’t respect me. Right. Um, great. Now and it just to be fair like that, we’ve had that conversation. Like I was gonna say, we’ve had that conversation too. Yeah. Another one, um, is, uh, and this is, this can be, especially in those times we were kind of volleying back and forth with defensive stuff. Yes. Someone, a mentor of mine long ago did this with his wife and it’s just, it is a hard thing to shift gears and do.
It’s a humbling thing. So you of have to agree that you’re going to try it before you get into the argument. But it’s, you sh you shift roles so you decide ahead of time, hey, next time we’re kind of stuck in an argument, let’s shift roles. And so somewhere in there, hey, you know what, could you just be me for a minute? I’ll be you and I’m going to say to you what I heard you say. Interesting. And so we’re gonna try that and just say like, so what do you know? And it’s not like what I hear you saying, it’s literally like me saying to you as though I’m you what? And it can be really helpful to kind of clarify like, oh, you’re, I see what you’re saying. Like that’s not what I meant. I mean, sometimes you just start off, I’m like, oh, hold the phone. Like, is that why I’m coming across? I did not mean to come across that way. So that’s great. I like that. Yeah, that’s a good.
Yeah. One more for us. Well, I was just thinking about [inaudible] I don’t think we’ve talked about this specifically, but the whole idea, I know that what can happen a lot is cross complaining, you know, like, so one of the things we’re saying is try to bring a complaint so you bring it and then you’re like, well, yeah, but you, you know, and I just was thinking about a conversation Greg and I had the other day where I was, I needed to talk to him about something. And, um, he was, he listened and he was like, okay, you know, and it, there wasn’t like a, well, okay, but then you, and so that can so easily happen. So I guess it goes back to the being empathic, trying to listen, not getting defensive, not getting all, you know. Um, and really being able to be like, okay, you know, there are things that I do that aren’t, aren’t helpful. Just like there’s things that he does that aren’t helpful, that this doesn’t have to tear me up. I can be like, yeah, I’m sure I do some things. Just like you do some things. What are they letting me just, you know, be open to it
when, when you can own your crap and your stuff, you say like, you know, you, you called me on it. I don’t like it. I’ve got my own complaints, but let me just stop right there and say, you’re, you’re right. I’ve been doing that. And um, that was wrong. Sorry.
Yeah. Really is every, if each person is willing to be humble and own their own stuff
and sometimes with prayers like, oh Lord, Lord, help me be humble. But it’s powerful. Yeah. Let me pray for people as we’re, as we’re closing Lord, there’s so much more we could say. Um, this is big stuff. And we know that some of our listeners, Lord, that it’s this isn’t, you know, so for some it’s just like, oh, that’s a helpful tune-up kind of thing. And for others this is, this is life and death stuff, Lord, they, they’re in patterns, deep entrenched patterns of criticizing or contempt, being defensive or stonewalling their spouse. We pray for them there that you know, there’s never anyone and there’s never any marriage beyond redemption, Lord. So we pray for them that, that you had reached them, help them. And Lord not maybe even just let me say it this way, help the spouse who’s listening to this. What would you have him or her do? Because sometimes it just needs to begin with one season, if one beginning to do things differently. So Lord, help them in Jesus name and brothers and sisters. If we can help you, please reach out.