It was over twenty years ago that I had my first job working at a Psychiatric Hospital. A young 16 year old gal came to the hospital after trying to kill herself through a drug overdose. I was assigned to be her counselor and we hit it off very well until her family came to visit.
During our first family counseling session her mother, step-father and aunt all had nose bleeds. I thought this was so unusual and wondered how three adults could have this happening at the same time (I was so naive!!!).
I also discovered early on in my counseling experiences that many married couples have tremendous difficulty in talking about tough issues with their mate. Some couples go for incredibly long stretches without talking about sexual problems, financial concerns (like overspending and debt), addictions, parenting problems and the list goes on and on. Some couples have NEVER talked about these issues.
Here is a Game Plan for Confronting Your Mate or Family Member
Listen to your anxiety about confronting your loved one and your frustration about the issue. E.g. I’m feeling anxious about talking to my mate about our love making (or lack thereof) because he/she may get really defensive and start blaming me for the problem, but it needs to be addressed. (Remember that anxiety is pain in the future, it is anticipated pain or hurt.) Often times something bothers us because it needs resolution – God designed us to be people of truth, we look for resolution of these kinds of problems.
Speak your anxiety/concerns – that is - prepare your mate for confrontation. E.g. You may say to your partner, “I have a sensitive topic to discuss with you, but I’m concerned that you might…get upset, or it may start up an argument”, etc. Then ask, “Do I need to be concerned about this? Is now a good time to talk about a sensitive topic” Most spouses will ask, “What is it?” (They avoid your question.) You will need to ask again, “Is now a good time to talk?” Look for them to give you a green light – or wait until a later time (especially if they start escalating before the issue is even put on the table).
Confront the issues. Go ahead and talk about what is on your heart. Remember to use “I-messages” versus “you-messages”. “I-messages” tend to open people up – such as – “I am concerned about…” or “I would like to see…”. “You-messages” tend to close people down – such as – “You never…” or “You only care about…”. Speaking for yourself (by using “I-messages”) will increase your likelihood by being heard. If things begin to escalate, call a time-out.
Common Questions About Confrontation in Marriage…
Q: Do I need to confront everything in my marriage?
A: You probably can’t confront everything – so the answer is “no”. It’s important that you choose your battles wisely. So ask God for what is most important and go after those things. As my wife has often said, “Some things are better left unsaid” and these would be the less important issues. On the other hand some things really need to be addressed and right away. Although you will not talk about everything, you do need to have an honest relationship with your mate. What things would your spouse be hurt by if they were not discussed?
Q: We have a history of violence and verbal abuse in our marriage and this makes me not want to confront for fear that things could get violent again, or there may be retaliation without violence – I don’t want that either.
A: You definitely need to have professional help in your situation. To be intimidated into silence will hurt you and your marriage in the short and long run. On the other hand you don’t want to be the target of violence or retaliation. Having a professional Christian counselor as your guide and referee (if necessary) would be an extremely wise move on your part. I encourage you to get help right away.
Q: It doesn’t matter what approach I use, we have a certain topic that whenever it is brought up we always break out into a big fight. What should we do?
A: Every couple has one of these log-jams from time to time (some have many). It is important to eliminate these as quickly as possible or to shakes hands with the fact that this may be what is called a perpetual issue. (A perpetual issue is an ongoing conflict that has no immediate solution and where both husband and wife recognize it as such and come to some compromise. An example of this is the Jew and the Catholic who marries and has children together – and both want to bring the children up in their faith! You can imagine what the compromises on this might be…). Log-jams and perpetual issues usually need some professional help as with the above question. Do reach out for help right away!
A Look in the Book:
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man”! 2 Samuel 12:7 (Read this chapter to see the amazing confrontation of David by Nathan – regarding David’s sin with Bathsheba.) Note that Nathan was 1) sent by God to tell the truth, 2) to prepare David for the confrontation with a story, and 3) to drive home his confrontation.
“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth”. Proverbs 16:13
“What will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account?” Job 31:14
What happened to the 16 year old in the hospital?
She did indeed survive her suicide attempt. It was, at the time, the only way she knew how to reach out for help for herself and her family. In a short while though, she learned to speak the truth in love and eventually carried a very good practice into her own marriage. It was a real honor to be part of this brave young person’s life!
If you are struggling with conflicts or know someone who is and would like to schedule an appointment, Dr. Downing sees clients in our Fullerton location and you can contact us by call 800-99-TODAY or 800-998-6329. We have over 40 locations throughout so California.
You can also visit us at www.TurningPointCounseling.org
The material contained in this newsletter has been prepared by an independent third-party provider. The material provided is for informational and educational purposes only. Although the material is deemed to be accurate and reliable, there is no guarantee it is not without errors.
TURNING POINT COUNSELING
1370 N. Brea Blvd., Ste. 245
Fullerton, CA 92835