Don't Climb the Ladder - Staying healthy in Conflict
One of the core desires for this online community can be found right in the name. Keeping it Real. We are working very hard to make sure that we are real with you and that you are able to be real with each other.
This week we are tackling a topic that we believe is very real for most couples, how to navigate conflict in a healthy, beneficial way.
Many times when we encounter a couple in the midst of conflict we find that they have climbed what we like to call The Conflict Ladder. Meaning they have left the issue that they are having conflict about, and instead are now onto something not even remotely related to the initial conflict.
Before we move any further let us remind you.
Conflict will happen.
How we respond to the inevitable conflict is critical to the health of our relationships.
We have learned this in our relationship, and hope you can grasp this truth today.
We have to learn to stay on the issue at hand.
So many times an argument will happen and then an hour later you can't even remember what you're arguing about. Anybody relate to that? This is because we so easily move away from the initial disagreement and begin to bring in unnecessary and un-related issues into the conflict.
We have learned that when we enter into a conversation that we know may lead to some form of conflict that we often begin the conversation with defenses up and in a negative headspace out of assumption instead of staying present in the moment. We often enter the conservations "fully loaded" to have conflict. Our thoughts are not "Let's find the middle ground and work from there", instead they are "I believe this way about this situation and I need you to get on my side". The later always leads us to the ladder. We then leave behind the issue at hand and begin attacking, criticizing, and escalating the argument to a level it never needed to be at.
When we first got married Dale was working with a billboard company, overtime he was placed in a managerial role over the operational department. One morning he left for work in cut-off jeans, a cut-off shirt, and work boots instead of his normal suit or business casual attire. His reasoning for this was because he was going to do the work with the guys he oversaw. He said, "They are never going to believe that I can lead them well if I don't know what they do every day." This ended with Dale up 60-70 feet in the air on a Boom-Ladder over the major interstate in Birmingham to get to the top of the billboard.
Just like in these ladder-climbing conflicts, the higher Dale got up the ladder the more unstable he felt, anxious he became, and the more the ladder swayed from it's sturdy place. When we climb the conflict ladder, the further we get from the issue (The Ground) the more unstable our relationship becomes, the more we sway from issue to issues. The higher you go, the higher you fall. If we stay on the issue at hand, we can't fall very far. Someone has to be the person to stop the climbing and get back to the issue at hand.
For a lot of couples one spouse struggles with being bottom-line about how they're feeling, or being vulnerable with their feelings. The other spouse might be very competitive naturally and therefore struggle to find middle ground in a disagreement because of the "need to win". Sometimes Partner A has the belief that for the conversation to have been successful, that Partner B will fully agree with them. All of these scenarios lead the argument to go higher and higher and get louder and farther away from the issue, and the relationship begins to feel unstable because without even knowing it you've gotten 50 feet off the ground.
Sometimes you can't be right and be in relationship.
We recognize that it is very easy to climb the ladder. It keeps us from having to evaluate ourselves and admit our own wrongdoing. Conflict creates a ton of energy in us, whether you call it anger, indignation, frustration, or passion. The Word of God cautions us against sinning due to that energy.
"In your anger, do not sin."
- Ephesians 4:26
Yes, there will be situations and discussions in your marriage that are tough and come with a bit of conflict. The challenge is to not sin in that conflict, don't belittle the other person, don't attack their character, don't bring up things that are not connected to the situation because the conflict creates this energy in you.
Make the choice to empathize.
Make the choice to not sin against your spouse.
Anger is a strong emotion.
Not to destroy yourself inside.
Not to destroy the other person outside.
But to destroy the issue through partnership with your spouse.
This has been a secret for us to "fight right' or "cool the heated fellowship"
Don't climb the ladder.