Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Functional Family Life

For the past few weeks I have written about conflict. Some conflict is healthy and some is deadly. According to Dr. John Gottman the reason there is conflict between man and wife and parents and children is simple: Differences! People have little skill in dealing with even the slightest difference.

For example, I have received crisis calls from couples on a trip to Canada who got half way there and could not agree on what time the started. This was so difficult a difference that they soon got into a terrible argument. The argument got so heated and so out of control that they called me with a cry for my help.

We set up an appointment the following week and they came in as lovey as one could imagine. We chatted and laughed for a few minutes and then I asked, "Well, what was it that caused such a crisis between you that you had to call me from Canada?" They looked at each other with a puzzled expression and said, "We completely forgot what we were fighting about."

This was a regular event in their relationship and had been for over thirty years. But, it was not really destructive conflict that would lead to a divorce. The destructive conflict that is the primary reason couples get a divorce is different than their fights. This couple would fight and yell and scream and cry but they always stopped short of the one thing that would lead to emotional and spiritual destruction.

In fact, there are three ways people can handle differences and have conflict and still stay happily married. This is one that looks on the surface like a very dysfunctional marriage that will never last but most of them last forever. Here is why: They never attack each other. All the anger, hurt and yelling goes up to the sky and falls lazily back down to earth without doing mortal damage.

Some of you are saying, "That cannot be. I could not stand to have that much distension in my marriage and family life." You must fall into one of the other types that deal with conflict. Here is the key to handling conflict. Never, ever attack your partner's intellect, work habits, spiritual life, character, past history or sports teams. (Or anyone else for that matter.) Attacking ends up in the court house not the lake house. In Ohio that will cost you 50% of all you own and a lifetime of misery.

The couple mentioned above love each other deeply. Maybe too deeply because ti takes only a small amount of difference for the other to feel abandoned, dissed or attacked. When a couple is too closely stuck together any small separation can seem like a large attack. But, they love too much to attack the other. They are called a VOLATILE couple. The argument is just t prelude to a very romantic make up session! In fact, some couples have learned to fight so they can have a terrific kiss and make up.

Next time, the AVOIDANCE couple.

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