Over my six years of marriage I’ve found that nearly every major step forward was the result of a “fight.”
This was a bit of a surprise to me because, growing up in the church, I was exposed to two alternative viewpoints on marital strife:
- Fighting is bad
- Fighting is simply the result of two “sinners” sharing the same roof
But nobody ever taught me how fighting, if handled properly, is one of the best catalysts for moving towards greater unity.
A fight is the result of two clashing frames. You’re both seeing the same data, but it means different things depending on what story you fit it into.
It’s unfortunate that Christian husbands are taught to try to “work it out” or find a “balanced” solution to the conflict. The aftermath of a conflict is one of the best times for a husband to restructure a wife’s worldview.
Here’s how I do it:
First, I diffuse emotion with logic. This is really not about “winning” the argument as it is about exhausting her. So I don’t get frustrated how she’s not “getting the point” I simply see it as an endurance contest.
Eventually she’ll get tired and calm down. But now she’s worried because we had a “fight.” Her head is spinning trying to figure out what happened. This creates a golden opportunity for…
The Power of the First-Heard Story
Unless your wife has an unusually high IQ, she won’t be able to stand chaos and uncertainty. A fight creates uncertainty. Whatever she thought she knew about you or about the situation has been disrupted and her brain is desperately trying to come up with an explanation that makes sense.
This is where the husband can swoop in and rescue the damsel in distress by telling her the story she needs to hear. “See babe, what happened is that…”
Whoever first provides her with an explanation is the one who shapes her worldview.
Of course, to provide an immediate explanation to an event requires prior diligence. You need to pay attention to her daily frustrations and figure out the root cause behind them. Here’s a useful formula for framing such analysis that I learned from Rich Schefren:
You think the problem is X, so you’re doing Y to solve it. But the real problem is Z and Y actually makes Z worse.
Example: “You think you need to ‘try harder’ to be a better wife and mother, so you’re doing all this activity. But the real need is for unity and agreement between us and trying to be the ‘perfect’ wife and mother by completing all your ‘to dos’ only creates disharmony.”
I’d say root cause analysis is perhaps the most important skill of husbandry. It’s what allows you to shape her worldview, permanently solve her problems, and shape her into the woman you want her to be.
Keep in mind that someone will be moulding your wife… and that someone will be whoever understands her pain and provides the first explanation to the cause of that pain. The first heard story always sticks.