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For me, these sticky situations erupt when I’ve really had the best of intentions. 😉 In the moment, I think my words will bring clarity and understanding to my spouse (cue the sound of angels singing from heaven).
But . . .
All I really offered my mate was a sticky web intended to capture him in his own words.
And once my anger and pride settles back down, I can see just what a tangled mess I’ve made—binding both of us tightly to the worst side of ourselves.
Ironically, I choose to go this route out of a desire to be “Christlike” by pointing my spouse to God and His word—or my version of it! But all I really end up doing is condemning him instead of inspiring him, like I had hoped.
Sadly, I’ve found myself in this sticky situation far more often than you might guess of a Christian counselor and pastor’s wife! After all, I should know better, right?!
Thankfully, the overabundance of messes that I’ve made over the years—decades, really—also give me greater insight into how to get unstuck when the web tightens in a choke-hold around my heart and marriage.
5 Steps for Getting Unstuck
1. Recognize what I’m feeling.
If I’m feeling anxious and angry, it’s a good bet that no matter how I try to state something, it’s going to come across harsh and even hateful.
2. Call a “time-out” of sorts.
I respectfully tell my husband (or any offender) that I’m feeling too emotional to talk further about the situation. Then I gently say that I want to pull away to process and pray. In other words . . .
I need to zip my lip and let fly my prayerful cry! #handlewithprayer #marriagesaver
3. Pray and process
I gain so much calmness, peace and perspective once I’ve prayed over my feelings and perceptions in the conflict I was just in with my mate. Sometimes it takes praying and processing for days. But more times than not, it gives me clarity very soon afterwards. So I will ask my husband if we can schedule a time to talk later, once our emotions have settled and our hearts are back in tune with the Lord.
Scientists have now confirmed through research that when we feel anger the Amygdala in the brain gets “hijacked” for at least 18 minutes—dropping our IQ by about 15 points during that time—making rationality and diplomacy elusive during this time. Not only that, but perspective cannot be gained in the moment. We must step back to see our situation clearly.
4. Have “the talk.”
After choosing the optimum time and distraction-free place, come at this conversation with humility—focusing on “your” contribution and not your spouse’s.
This is HUGE!
If I try to talk to my husband in a way that communicates that he is the main problem or even part of the problem, the conversation will go from smooth back to stickier than ever in no time.
I realize that there are times when we might need to point out a hurtful attitude or behavior of our spouse, especially if this first approach does not draw that out. But I would suggest avoiding being that direct unless the problem was/is abusive or continual. It is better to lay the foundation with grace by being humble and taking responsibility for your part first and foremost.
5. Make listening your paramount concern and action.
Really this step is actually a part of step four—so maybe it should be 4 ½. 😉 The point is, you need to remind yourself that you cannot know all that your offender sees or feels without really listening to him/her first before forming your opinion.
Then make sure not to form a rebuttal, even if the rebuttal is only in your head! Be humble enough to “sit with the other person’s words” for minutes, hours and even days. Speak them out loud to yourself so that you can hear them, think them, feel them. Then ask the Lord to use that person’s words to reveal the truth about “you” and how you need to change. For me, that has often been the best and most useful result ever!
What is your biggest challenge when a “sticky situation” arises with others?
How do you think others would respond if you did all five of these steps completely?