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Dr. Ed Smith
01.01.1970 01:0000    Comments: 2    Categories: news      Tags:

This article is available here and in the CONT. EDUC. section of this website.


     John walks in through the back door of his home after work and finds his wife resting on the living room couch. He cannot help but notice how nice the house looks in perfect order. He knows she has worked hard to make it so and he feels genuinely grateful. He is feeling nothing but a sense of peace and gratefulness for the relationship he has with his wife. He speaks these words (with a motivation of simply starting conversation) “So, Honey, what did you do today?” He is expecting a warm response; however, what he gets instead is not warm but rather blistering hot. “What do you mean what did I do all day? I will tell you what I did all day you presumptuous little….” This reaction sets John back on his heels as he recoils with a flash of defensive anger himself. The words that follow are not ones of blessing but, rather those of conflict and pain. What just happened here? Is this a scenario with which you can relate?

What I want to offer in this article, after having been married to the same woman for over 34 years, are a few principles I hope you may find helpful.

Principle One: Never assume that the words you speak and the meaning you intend is what is being heard by the other party to whom you are speaking. As a matter of fact, you can assume that the words that you speak are never fully or completely understood anytime, by anyone. It is impossible for any of us to fully understand what the other is actually saying to the degree that it has been delivered.
     When I was in the pulpit in front of a local congregation I never ceased to be amazed at what people reported that I had preached. After the sermon was over, I would hear comments about what they thought that I had spoken. Often what they heard was nowhere near the actual message I intended.  People interpret what they hear based upon their own personal filters of interpretation.
     In my marriage, the words that I speak to my wife originate in my mind and are rooted in some measure in a sundry of historical influences in my past. My words are also being colored by my present emotional status which is being produced by what I believe in the moment. As these emotionally charged words reach the eardrum of my spouse, they are immediately interpreted by her historical influences, which in turn trigger her belief system and thus illicit an emotional response from her. So what she hears is vocabulary that has many possible interpretations, of which she will choose the one that her mind determines is the most potentially true. However, this may be a totally different meaning than I ever intended. No matter what conclusion she comes to it will be determined by her interpretive filters and not so much on my influence or motivation.  Perception is the key influencer here. For example, if her belief system contains information suggesting she is not appreciated, that she is incapable, or worthless and I ask her what she did all day long, she may react with hostility rather than love.
     Principle Two: If the conflict that you are having with your spouse has any connection with your lie-based belief system, you will not likely resolve the issue without addressing the root belief first. This is not to say that you cannot resolve the immediate disagreement, for you may. This does not mean that you and your spouse will never return to a place of peace in the relationship, for most people do. However, it is just a matter of time before the same snake strikes again. We have no choice but emotionally respond from what we believe.   Until we walk in truth we will react from the lie-based pain we carry. Whatever is inside will come out when the pressure is put on us. This emotional reaction is “knee jerk” and is impossible to control. I did not say we have no choice in what we do following this emotional  “knee-jerk” reaction, for that is not the case. It is true that I have no choice but emotionally feel what I believe, but I do not have to act out these feelings. I may not be able to control the fact that what she said stirred up a hostile feeling in me, but I do not have to break the dish on the floor in protest.

Principle Three: When the relationship is stirred up emotionally there are other “stop gap” options we can do other than act out in a negative manner. The following suggestions are options that can help us from saying things or acting in ways that only hurt the relationship more. These “stop-gap” options will not renew our minds with truth but can prevent us from hurting the other person with whom we are trying to relate.

     1. Clarification. This is a simple action that is easier said than done but helpful when accomplished. In order to do this act you have to bite your tongue and choose to assume that you have not heard what you think you have heard even though your feels are contrary. It is better to fail on the side of thinking the best than to fail on the side of assuming the worse. Rather than assuming that you indeed heard what you heard and your spouse just spoke words to hurt you, you can choose to assume that you have misunderstood him or her and ask for clarification. This can be accomplished in several ways such as asking something like: “Can you restate what you just said in a different way so that I do not misunderstand what you are intending me to hear?” Or, “What I believe I heard you just say was __________. Is this what you intended?” Clarification sometimes requires several attempts before it works. For, example, if after your spouse clarifies and yet what you hear still feels bad, do not assume that you have heard him or her correctly the second time. Ask for more clarification instead. The reason that this action is so difficult to carry out is,  to do so requires we resist the emotions we feel which are rooted in what we experientially believe. It is this historical pain that is driving our desire to strike back. Our history has interpreted the words or action of our spouse as though they were the ones in our history. We are feeling toward them what we felt toward those who hurt us in the past. Thus, in the moment the feelings we are experiencing feel like they are truth-based when in fact they probably are not. It requires we let the emotion and the person go for a moment and calmly ask for clarification. Here again, this point also has its trouble point. If the person clarifies with words that are totally different than what you think you heard the first go around, your mind will want to question the honesty of your spouse’s clarification. Your triggered emotion will not want to let go of your possible misinterpretation. The bottom line is simple. If your spouses clarification is different than what you thought they said, either you misunderstood what was spoken or your spouse is a liar.

     2. Have a plan or protocol in place before the conflict arises. I have learned from the long road of experience that seldom have I been able to resolve the conflict in the heat of the flash point. The moment that you find yourself emotionally triggered is not the place from which you need to respond. Whatever comes out of your mouth in this moment will rarely be good. Rather, when you and your partner are in a good place (not in conflict), discuss and decide what protocol will be followed when conflict does arise. Write down the ground rules that you both can agree to abide by in the conflictual moment. For example, you might agree that you both will clarify and not assume the worse. You might agree that there be a 15 minute break when the flash point occurs before there is any major discussion. Even better yet (especially for the bigger issues) you will agree to get personal ministry and come to a place of peace before you enter into discussion over the issue. It has been my experience that in every case where Sharon and I have had conflict, where we sought ministry and found resolution, we never had to return to the original issue. Without the historical pain the “big” issues deflate and become miniscule. Come up with a plan that will work for you.

     3. View your conflict as an opportunity for mind renewal and freedom. God’s primary means of exposing you is through relational crisis. Most of the time we find ourselves in an emotional heap it is due to relational conflict. Sometimes we are triggered by the car, dog or newspaper article but more often than not it has something to do with another person. God has a plan to free you of the lie-based thinking you carry and from which you operate. He will not relent in his orchestration of setting you up for exposure. You can fight this process all you want, but it will not go away. You can leave your spouse and find another but the process remains. It is best that we simply stop fighting and “entrust our souls to a faithful creator in doing what is right" and allow Him to do His work in us. (1 Peter 4:19)

Ed M. Smith



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  •  Tricia wrote 2743 Days Ago (neutral) 

    A minor admin point is that it looks as if this was written back in January 1970.  As do all the other articles.  Prpbably something to do with the introduction of the new web site.  Us techies call these "gremlins" ....or something like that.

    It doesn't of course, detract from the value of the content.


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  •  IZONPRIZE wrote 2746 Days Ago (neutral) 

    I have learned so much from you over the last 10 years and I am thankful that God has given you to the Body of Christ, for such a time as this.  May He continue to grow and use you for His glory! Leeanna

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