We don’t walk around on eggshells in our relationship. When one of us doesn’t like what the other is doing, thinking, or acting, it doesn’t take long before one of us says something. We don’t avoid the confrontation.
Taryn & I don’t have ‘big’ arguments often. Actually, we almost never do. But we have smaller ones every so often. It’s not because we enjoy them. It’s because those smaller arguments are healthy for our marriage. Confrontation is healthy for our marriage.
It sounds backward, doesn’t it? How can confrontation be healthy for your marriage? Does not having confrontation with your spouse and not arguing with your spouse mean you have it all together? Does it mean you have a great marriage?
Does it mean you have a great marriage or does it mean you are just living together without confrontation? It’s the latter. A lack of confrontation in a marriage is a dangerous thing. I won’t go into the dangerous reasons here, but instead here are three reasons why you should confront your spouse.
1. Encourages good behavior
Taryn & I have high standards for each other, just as we did when we first dated. When we behave in a certain way, and when the standard that we have is met, it makes us feel good. Unfortunately, the opposite is true too.
Remember that your spouse is human. Your spouse will fail to meet the standard at times. It is your job to let them know when the expectations are not met. This is not a free pass to criticize and pile on the negative comments after the failure. This is a time for encouragement. When the standards are not met, have the confrontation. Sometimes you have to have confrontation a lot.
One confrontation Taryn & I have a lot involves dealing with the discipline of our son. When disciplining my son, if I start with minimal or no emotion, and if I ask questions to help my son discover how to address the issue, the situation usually goes ok. If I go in with guns blazing, telling him everything he has to do, I would have had better conversation with a brick wall.
More often than not, I go in with guns blazing. Once, when I tore into my son and said my peace, I thought the situation was over. Not too long after, Taryn let me know it wasn’t over. I was sitting on the couch still frustrated but satisfied. She came and stood over me and said, “You do realize that you just accomplished nothing right?”. I didn’t care for that comment because I knew she was right, so of course I snapped back. But that didn’t matter. She made her point. I handled the situation incorrectly and I needed to do better.
2. Encourages improvement
Do you want your spouse to improve and become a better person? Of course you do. But everyone gets in a funk and has a period of time where he is just spinning his wheels and letting life pass by. Maybe your spouse continually works to improve overall, but could use some encouragement in a specific area of life. Has he let his diet go? Has she stopped exercising? Have his priorities become mixed up? Is she neglecting you, your family, or something else important? You need to be the one to let him know. You need to confront him and help him see that he’s not improving where he should be.
One area this often comes up in our relationship is with diet. We are very conscious of what we eat. We read a lot about nutrition and good things to put in our bodies. But that doesn’t mean we don’t live in America and that we aren’t human. Plain and simple, there are some things out there that are terrible for you but taste REALLY good. We know we shouldn’t do it, but we are guilty of indulging in junk once in a while. The bad thing about indulging in junk is that it tells your brain and body to crave more junk. Once you start down that track, it can be difficult to get off. Sometimes we have to confront one another.
3. Encourages a positive attitude
We all fall into situations where we have a bad attitude. Sometimes it’s justified. Sometimes it’s not. I’ll even go so far as to say that we’re allowed to have a bad attitude – for a short period of time. But if it persists, we need to be confronted. Be forewarned, though. Have your shield up when confronting someone with a bad attitude. There will be backlash.
Not too long ago, Taryn was having a rough day. It just wasn’t going the way she planned. She woke up late, she didn’t get some things done that she wanted to, and then there was a confrontation with our son. This particular confrontation lasted on and off for a few hours. Early in the conversation, I told her that I was done with the issue. This really bothers her because the “S” in her doesn’t want me to give up on him. What she didn’t realize is that I wasn’t. I was just done in that situation.
The conversation escalated and I refused to re-engage. She became very upset. Eventually, she took off to run an errand. I thought to myself, ‘Good. That will get her mind off of the issue and let her calm down.’ When she got back, she wasn’t calmed down. We had a dinner party to go to a few hours later, so before long she headed up to get ready. When I went up to get ready, I realized she was still upset. It was time for the confrontation.
I prodded her gently with a few questions, but when she didn’t want to talk through things I finally dropped the bomb that always works, “Are you about done?”. That little question, coupled with the tone that says “this is getting ridiculous”, will cause a powerful but very short explosion. (For the record, it works in an equally effective manner when she uses it on me.) Of course she snapped back.
I don’t even remember the exchange. It was short and heated. But the exchange wasn’t what was important. What was important was having the confrontation to make her realize that the attitude wasn’t acceptable. On the drive to dinner, all was good.
Confrontation in a marriage is a good thing. It’s a necessity. When you don’t have disagreements and arguments, the benefits listed above aren’t brought to fruition. Lack of confrontation creates space and can drive a wedge between you and your spouse.
Avoiding the confrontation could be a result of being afraid of upsetting your spouse. This is where the eggshell walking begins. The goal, then, isn’t better behavior, improvement or a better attitude. The goal is to keep the other happy and free from upset.
I’ve seen a couple live in what seems like bliss for many years. The non-confrontational spouse gets frustrated and has had enough. Anger and frustration rear their ugly heads and the couple isn’t happy and in love anymore. I’ve seen it lead to separation and divorce.
I realize that confronting your spouse is more difficult for some than others. For the “high-D” people it’s easy. For the “high-S” folks, it can unbelievably difficult. For the “C’s” and “I’s”, it’s somewhere in between. But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.
As with anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Taryn’s nature is to make sure all is good. She has come to understand how necessary and important confrontation is, despite it being difficult. Because we have always confronted each other, it has become easy for her to confront me when I need it.
Remove the concerns about upsetting your spouse. Put away the thought of your spouse leaving you, and think about the benefits of the confrontation. Think about making the relationship better. Think about how a small change in each other will make for a much happier relationship. Think about what better people each of you will be once you each recognize what needs to change.
The goal in confrontation isn’t to argue. The goal is to open the communication in a marriage so that each person can find the areas in which they need to improve. From there, the goal is to make the change.
Give it some thought, get some guts, and have the confrontation. In the end, you both will be better for it.
How do you handle confrontation within your marriage? What is an area where you need to confront your spouse? Please remember that you may respond anonymously.