It is a well known researched fact that men experience more anxiety in conflict than women but…show it less non-verbally. This is especially challenging for the wife. She often doesn’t understand why he is reacting in anger and trying to shut her down. However, more times than not, he is trying to manage his anxiety. Unfortunately, for men, they usually go to “shut down or blow up.” It is further complicated by the fact that men take longer to recover after an argument or conflict than their wives. Men usually say their wives are “pounding or hammering” them. What they really mean is that as they engage in the conflict their anxiety levels become so high that they will try to remain calm by not saying much. However, this also complicates the situation because their wives often see this as uncaring and insensitive due to their lack of words. Finally, when anxiety has peaked often the man “barks” in an attempt to get her to stop. However, this only makes it worse, which creates a higher intensity level. As the couple starts having these high intensity arguments they start to being traumatized and a portion of their brain called the amygdala starts to stamp in the emotional trauma. Over time, each one starts to represent pain to the other one. They don’t see other as partners anymore, they see the other as creating more pain. This is why men will avoid conflict almost at any cost. However, for the women they will often keep trying because their need for emotional connection is often higher. However, even for the women if they are not heard they will begin to shut down and fade from the relationship. So, when people say they are no longer “in love” it is often because of this cycle.
1. John Gottman, a famous marriage researcher says that if there is a gentle start up there is an increasingly positive outcome to the argument.
2. If a couple can keep conflict between 1-5 they usually will have more success at conflict resolution. However, if they continue to have conflict between 6-10 they will continually “traumatize” each other until they are only associating the other as pain.
3. Negative associations and negative beliefs will continue to sabotage the relationship. You must start doing things that are small and connecting to make your way back to each other. If you forget what it was like to enjoy your spouse then it will be difficult to recover the “in love” feeling.
4. Going to gratitude. Gratitude has been shown to have a positive effect on the neurology of the brain. Sometimes even “forced gratitude” will work. You don’t always have to be feeling grateful to do gratitude.
5. Allow both partners to have a voice. If you don’t have a voice, then learn how to be confident and assertive. If one partner doesn’t have a voice sooner than later there will be resentment and a distancing of the heart.
6.Handle conflict in a timely manner. It is not always feasible to “not the the sun go down on your anger.” If fact, sometimes, the sun needs to go down and you need to rest and seek the Lord in the morning.
7. Make and accept repair attempts. John Gottman covers this in his 7 principles to making marriage work.
8. Work on self care. Work on your heart. Don’t spend all your time in blaming and self protection. Self care allows you to seek the Lord, allow Him to minister to your heart and take an inward look at what responsibility you need to take.
9.Use your friendships. Get support and allow them to speak into your life where you may be missing something.
10.Learn to rest in the Lord. In the middle of hurt when you feel like you can’t go another step, allow time remembering that somehow, some way, He is still in control/sovereign. There will be dark days but there will also days of light. Persevere through the darkness with the hope that light is coming. Go to Him with your hurt. Don’t keep running on self effort. It only makes it worse. There is a peace that He can give you even in the midst of deep pain and feelings of little hope. He is near to the broken-hearted. He is near to you, even when you don’t feel it.