I love talking to people from around the world about how their culture approaches marriage. I’m especially intrigued by couples who have had successful arranged marriages. I figure if they can make it, after saying vows when they barely knew each other, surely they have wisdom to offer those of us in the Western world who choose who we will marry, and usually date beforehand.
Recently I was able to visit with my African father, a wonderful Ghanaian who for some reason thinks I’m cool and claimed me as his daughter years ago. We have a great relationship, even though I haven’t seen him in seven years, and I can talk to him about anything. During my short time with him in Tennessee, I talked to him about how to handle conflict in marriage; I was curious about the perspective from an African Christian who had an arranged marriage, and has a wonderful marriage with four great adult children.
He proceeded to give me a tool that I thought was amazing. It is very simple, but very hard to do alot of the time. In fact, though I have the tool in my mental tool belt, I’ve neglected to use it lately, regrettably.
This is the idea: when in conflict with your spouse, it is so easy to get into a firing match, spouting off words before you really stop to think if what you’re saying is helpful. Furthermore, we tend to not really listen to what our spouse is saying, and instead take that time to formulate arguments in our head to attack them back with.
The premise of this marriage tool is to visualize you sitting in a triangle formation with your spouse opposite you, and Jesus in between. Every time you prepare to say something to your spouse, say it to Jesus first. If he, in your mental picture, finds the message acceptable to pass on to your spouse, then speak it out loud. But, if the Jesus in your mind refuses to pass on the message, you can know that what you are saying is not Christ-like and not helpful.
This tool obviously requires a few things to be successful. First, you have to be willing to let the Spirit lead you, even if you are really angry or irritated with your spouse. Second, it takes a little practice learning to hear Jesus this way, but it will happen. Jesus is more than willing to teach us how to communicate effectively with our spouses. Finally, it requires us to shut up a bit and think before we speak. The conversation will slow down, and have less tendency to escalate into something where tempers flare and rash words are spoken.
Admittedly, this whole idea is tough for me. I like getting the last word, and thanks to high school and college debate team, I’m good at maneuvering arguments. Lots of times I don’t want to slow down and listen to Jesus, especially if I’ve been feeling pain and want to throw some back on my husband in revenge. Note: These kinds of attitudes have not gotten me anywhere. Most likely they won’t work for you either.
I’m determined to incorporate this tool into conflict management in my marriage. Jesus has never steered me wrong thus far when I’ve listened to him, and I’m excited to see how tough conversations between my husband and I can improve when I just start paying more attention to the one who created marriage.
What do you think about this tool? Have you gone to Jesus in a similar manner during difficult conversations?
Seeking to fully live,