Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 3: Zip It!

Scripture to reflect upon for Relationship Revival: James 1:19-20
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

If you follow my blog, you’ve heard me say before that Jared and I have only had three arguments in our four year relationship. One thing I credit for that is we unknowingly follow this scripture to a tee. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. We are not perfect in any way, shape or form…especially me!

I’ve always been an outspoken person, and even when I try to speak my mind civilly, it typically comes out all wrong. I have a tendency to offend and hurt without even realizing what I’m doing.

I think it’s important to express yourself, and I think if someone has hurt you, you have every right to say so. But let’s get one thing straight: people don’t like confrontation, and when they are confronted on something they did wrong, they will always attack and try to turn it around on you somehow. Admit it. We all do it.

The problem is that sometimes we only listen to key words that trigger an emotion in us. I may not be saying what I need to say in a tone of anger, but if it sounds like an attack on the other person, they will typically respond by attacking back. And we all know how that story ends.

If we are quick to listen and slow to respond to what’s been said, you can honestly avoid getting angry. I know it works because Jared is the king at this, and it has benefits for me, too.

When I get upset and say something, usually not in a very pleasant tone, Jared hears it but doesn’t react to it. Why? Because he knows that what I’m feeling is legitimate to me, but it’s nothing for him to get all bent out of shape over. So he doesn’t say anything! Nothing! And let me tell you, his silence rebukes me quickly. I am instantly aware of what I just said and how I said it, and almost immediately I am apologizing.  And it’s over just like that. No argument. No name calling. No doors slamming.

Now on the opposite end of this, if we would truly listen to our partner, we could almost always avoid any and all types of disagreements, outbursts, and tirades.

We were craving pizza the other night, and rather than order one for $25, Jared offered to go to the store and get a frozen one. I asked him to get a particular brand. The last time we did this very same thing, the store didn’t have my brand. This is what I said to him the first time: “I want Carlo’s pizza with sausage. If they don’t have Carlo’s, then get anything else but with pepperoni. Carlo’s is the only pizza I like with sausage. I don't like sausage on any other pizza.” That first time he couldn’t find Carlo’s sausage he ended up buying a Home Run sausage pizza, which I absolutely hate! I got a bit bothered the first time and explained how I despise Home Run's sausage in particular. But the other night, he did the same exact thing! He couldn’t find Carlo’s and bought the same Home Run sausage pizza again. This time…I lost it! Jared stood there with a confused look on his face and asked, “What are you getting so mad about?” And I replied, “You say you always want to do things to please me, but yet it seems you don’t listen to me.” I’m sure he will never ever again buy a Home Run sausage pizza. At least I hope he won’t.

ACTION PLAN: This week zip it! Keep your mouth shut when your partner vents. Sometimes that’s all we need: to vent, get it out and get it over with. We are not looking for a fight, nor are we looking to deliberately hurt our partner. Let each other vent, but listen closely. Pay attention to what they are really upset about. If your partner is mad that you don’t put the dishes in the dishwasher, put the dishes in the dishwasher from now on. It’s a small act you can do to eliminate stress or anger in your partner, or a possible argument over something trivial that can easily be fixed.

If you are the one who is angry, let it out, but don’t use your partner’s name and do not direct your frustration at them. Focus on what is making you mad. You are not mad that your partner doesn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher, you are angry because you don’t like dishes in the sink. So instead of saying, “James, why can’t you ever put your dishes in the dishwasher?!” instead say, “I really hate dishes in the sink!” Partners: LISTEN UP AND ZIP IT!

If your partner did not respond with an argument when you spoke out of anger, convey your apologies, express yourself in a more well mannered tone, and move on.

FACT: We all have our pet peeves that rub us the wrong way. We all want to be heard when we have something important to say, especially concerning our feelings. Whatever bothers your partner is important to them, even if it seems ridiculous to you. Zipping your lip will avoid silly arguments that can escalate into something much worse than dishes in a sink. 

GO FURTHER: Sit down with one another and make a list of things your partner does that upsets you, and then discuss it together. Jared and I did this not too long ago. He didn’t close the shower curtain when he was done showering. I would just get upset when I saw it, said nothing, and then I’d shut it. It wasn’t a big enough deal for me to get mad at him. It was something that bothered me. After nicely discussing it, he now makes a conscious effort to shut the shower curtain. Does he do it all the time? No, but at least 90% of the time is better than never. It’s the effort that matters. What bothers you may not bother someone else, but in a relationship we should always be aware of our partner’s pet peeves and make sure we don’t do things that will rub them the wrong way. We may have to adjust our own behaviors in the process, but if it means eliminating frustration in your partner’s life, then I think it’s worth it! Pick and choose your fights. Jared not closing the shower curtain was not worth my own energy getting angry about and/or starting an argument over. Making the list together and then talking about it is an easy and fun way to talk about things that bother you. During this process, you may even end up laughing hysterically at how silly it all sounds, while also realizing that it means something important to the other person. Post your list to remind you and your partner how to keep peace with one another.

SINGLES: You can easily apply this lesson in almost every area of your life and in all of your other relationships. One thing to focus on this week is to make a list of your own pet peeves. Think back to previous relationships and the things they did (or didn’t do) that upset you. Take note of things that you do from day to day that might be someone else’s pet peeve. Start correcting the behavior now.

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