This is not my favorite time of year. I simply can’t get away from politics. Even something as benign as the NFL can’t escape it. Watching my favorite team play was plagued by announcers discussing a player’s right to not stand for the national anthem. Those conversations are overshadowing the purpose of the league – it’s entertainment, not a political arena. Or, rather, it shouldn’t be.
For me, “politics” brings up so many icky words, and maybe for you too (especially with our current presidential race): lies, manipulation, deceit, debate. We expect this in political races, such as the one for the presidency. But, when it happens in our personal lives (or even in a beloved pass-time like the NFL), it just feels awful and can truly ruin relationships. Honestly, I don’t know how politicians survive the “politics” of it all. The down-right ugliness of what they do to one another is terrible.
So, this type of behavior simply has no place in our lives – especially our marriages. Listening to the presidential candidates go back and forth, accusing one another of lying, trying to convince us all that the other is bad while they are good, and literally pointing out every negative thing about the other at every opportunity, is exhausting. The sad thing, though, is that this same behavior can be found in marriages. How often do marital arguments end up being about who’s “right” and who’s “better” and highlighting what the other did wrong? If we are honest, I bet we’d all have to admit that we’ve had those very arguments before. The bottom line is this: our spouse is not our opponent and shouldn’t be treated as such.
So how do we keep the “politics” out of our marriages and remain a team? Here are a few tools that have helped my marriage – and several I picked up from marriage counseling, so I can vouch that they are good tools!
- It’s better to be in a right relationship with your spouse than it is to be right – Sometimes we just have to be right about something. I’m known for my tenacity and will argue with a sign post, so this was tough for me. It wasn’t that long ago that I lacked humility in my marriage and needed to be “right” all the time. After some time in counseling and realizing the value in humility, I’m a different person today. Now, when we argue, I remember that I want to keep a “right” relationship with Steve so I listen more and try not to insist on my own way. This isn’t easy, and I’m not always successful, but it has created more harmony between the two of us. And, through this behavior I think we’ve cultivated humility on both sides, which has increased intimacy overall.
- Sometimes it’s not necessary to point out your spouse’s flaws – We all have flaws and, unfortunately, it’s all too easy to point out our beloved’s flaws when we are upset or trying to win an argument. Most likely, our spouse is very much aware of their own flaws and pointing them out isn’t helping them or the situation. Instead, focus on how YOU feel about whatever conflict is going on and stick to first person language like, “I feel like” and “I think that” instead of “you” language that places blame and points fingers. The truth is that it takes two to create conflict, two people to argue about it, and two opinions to create the argument in the first place. The more each spouse focuses on their own feelings and thoughts and less on issues with the other, the healthier the conversation will be.
- It’s not about choosing sides – Many couples have mutual friends. It can be tempting to share arguments with friends in an attempt to get them to agree with our argument and to be on “our side” of things. This can be destructive to not only your relationship with your spouse, but with your relationship with your friends. My rule of thumb is to keep arguments between me and Steve. I have learned over the years to keep as much of our relationship between the two of us as possible and only share those personal details in counseling. I would never want our friends to think less of Steve and more of me, and I believe he feels the same way. We aim to lift one another up in front our friends – not tear each other down. Remember, we are not fighting for political office so there is no need for our friends to have to choose sides.
These are just a few tools that have helped me and my marriage relationship. I hope you can find them helpful in your relationship as well. And good luck over the next couple of months as we endure the rest of this crazy political season!