Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grace and Discipline in Marriage

The other day I came across this article about the six patterns of arguing which signal a couple's marriage may end in divorce identified by Dr. John Gottman.

DH and I had a pretty intense argument this weekend about our parenting choices.  I didn't come across this article until after the argument was mostly resolved, and it's interesting to look at it as a score sheet to see how we did and what room there is for improvement.

1. Harsh Startup
The inciting incident was fairly dramatic, but we both retreated to our corners quickly before too many hurtful words were said, and we didn't attempt to resolve things until later that night when we had both calmed down.

2. Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling
We each had complaints, but refrained from making personal attacks.  Probably the worst thing that happened is DH's tendency to get sarcastic and exaggerate to make his points.  I gave in and snarked back a few times before we calmed down again.

The argument resolved, or at least got us back to the point where we feel like we are on the same team, so we didn't really deal wih before we dealt with the other stages:

3. Flooding -- Where one partner's negativity overwhelms the other person, making them less able to engage in a meangingful discussion.
4. Body Language -- physical stress responses that go along with flooding, above
5. Failed Repair Attempts -- Earlier in the day, I apologized to DH for my part of the morning's drama.  He said obviously we needed to talk, but he wasn't ready at that moment. 
6. Bad Memories -- This is where the current negativity retroactively dirties all memories of the couple's history together. I've experienced this with other relationships, but thankfully not with DH!

Part of our argument was about our parenting choices.  There are some areas where I have done more research and practice than DH has.  While he thinks gentle discipline is noble, he's not completely made the paradigm shift I have.  He follows my lead for the most part in disciplining C, but there are times when he gets frustrated because he hasn't learned or practiced enough tools.  He said he probably needs to do more reading and learn more.

So, my first response to that was to want to flood him with materials.  Read this!  Watch this!  Discuss this with me!  We both got frustrated and he got a little defensive.

Grace-based living and healthy boundaries mean that I will choose to give DH space to learn at his own pace.  I can point him toward the materials but I'm not his teacher. 

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