Helping a couple to recognize the difference between fighting and arguing is the pastor’s main task when dealing with the third stage of intimate communication. A fight is heated. But it is possible to help a couple to learn how to diffuse a fight by having one or both parties use a very simple technique.
THE FOURTH MEETING
The couple is asked to report back on their homework (which was to document a conflict and how they sought to resolve it). The pastor discusses this with them and uses it as a means to introduce conflict resolution strategies.
In my previous post I introduced the concept of active listening. When someone is fighting they are trying to win. But when someone is listening well and seeking to understand what they other person is trying to say, they are taking the heat out of the fight. In fact, their attempts to understand what the other person is trying to say will involve clarifying questions and “so what you’re saying is…” type statements which will actually help the angry party to better express themselves. When a person feels understood they are drawn to that person. Once clarity and understanding has been achieved, the other party can state and ask, “I understand that you’re saying [active listening]. I see things a little differently. Would you be interested to hear how I see it?“
This is arguing. It is different to fighting (although most people call fighting ‘arguing’). An argument is the giving of reasons. Its goal is to understand. By understanding where each other are coming from, a couple can better arrive at a win-win solution. There will of course be times when this is not possible. That’s life. And it’s especially marriage! You don’t always get everything your way and it is unreasonable to think that you should.
In this session with a couple, the pastor can build on the concept of active listening and introduce responsive listening. This will involve teaching a couple that communication is not merely done with words. It’s body language, it’s active listening, it’s emotions, it’s facial expressions, it’s tone of voice, it’s use of time.
Responsive listening hears what is behind what is really being said and then responds lovingly. For example, a wife who asks her husband to not leave his dirty socks on the bedroom floor but to rather place them in the laundry basket, is not merely making a laundry request. She is asking for sensitivity. She is asking for respect. She is asking whether her husband really loves her. A husband who practises responsive listening will place his dirty socks in the laundry basket from that point on.
The couple is then introduced to a copy of their marriage vows which has been printed out in preparation for them. The content of the vows will be the main topic of the fifth meeting. Their homework from this session is to develop 3 goals: a personal goal for when they are married; a goal as a couple; and a goal for their future family. When then arrange to meet again in 2-3 weeks.
[More to come]