Catholic Engagement – Part II
Advice for Engaged and Dating Couples, cont’d.
Advice # 4: Don’t Fight!
Don’t fight? What do you mean? Everyone fights, right?
My wife and I have heard from time to time that “Everyone should have at least one big fight before they get married.” However, this is the farthest thing from the truth. Psychotherapist Gregory Popcak says, “Just as war is a failure of diplomacy, so fighting is a failure of problem solving.”
Naturally, there are going to be times when you disagree and even have heated, emotional discussions. However, this should not lead to fighting, especially on a regular basis. Fighting is a sign that something is wrong.
In a healthy disagreement, the goal of the couple is to work with each other to solve a problem not to be right or to prove the other wrong (unloving, lazy, insensitive, etc). It is trying to figure out a common solution that works for both parties. After all, if you are lovers, both people should work to make sure each other feels heard, edified, and content with the outcome. Not everything is going to be peachy, and sometimes it is very hard and trying. In fact, my wife and I have had some big disagreements, but we have worked through them and come to a mutual understanding. Healthy disagreements stay focused on the other person’s good, but the goal is to somehow work it out for a common good.
Fighting is more about control and being right. It often leads to screaming, crying, name calling, accusing, possibly threatening, being out of control, and walking out/hanging up on the other. It involves blowing up and saying things we don’t mean. It’s about winning at all costs despite how much we crush our lover. “If they weren’t so thick-headed, they would understand my point.” I believe learning good communication techniques are in order for this.
Engagement and the first year of marriage are important because conflicts will inevitably arise. Thus, it is extremely important to form good habits right away – to practice patience, understanding, gentleness, love, self-control, and deep listening. We need to really work hard at not just hearing the other person but trying to understand where they are coming from and why.
I know when I am defensive, reactionary, and take things to heart that I shouldn’t. An important rule to remember is that people marry us because they love us; thus, we need to stop thinking they are out to get us and give them the benefit of the doubt. Listen lovingly and undefensively if possible. This is a discipline, and if we don’t become disciplined before marriage, it’s much harder afterward.
It is far too easy to develop habits of becoming nitpicky, judgmental, impatient, and to blame, pout, or play the victim. These things destroy love. So we need uproot these as much as possible while we reinforce good habits that will be firm for the future.
Gregory Popcak says, “If you want to fight, take a karate class, buy an exercise dummy, or better yet, call the IRS tax help line, but, if you want to be married, you are going to have to learn problem solving.
This is only a skeletal outline. For more information, I would recommend:
For Better Forever – A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage, by Gregory Popcak. Also, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus which will help a lot in the communication and problem solving arena.
Advice #5 – Practice good habits and never get tired of growing:
First, we need to avoid cop outs. “I’m Italian, so that’s why I have a temper.” “I’m German, so therefore, I’m stubborn.” No. Everyone is called to become the best versions of themselves, and cannot get tired of examining themselves and working on their faults. The last thing we want is to marry someone – or be someone – who refuses to change, admit they’re wrong, or work on their faults. After all, the point of marriage is to help us to be the best we can be?
Everyone messes up in marriage, and it’s so easy to be prideful and stubborn in marriage. Therefore, it’s vital to be humble, to admit when we are wrong, apologize for it quickly, and work on bettering ourselves in the future. As mentioned above, we need to foster good habits. Don’t continually fall into arguing, fighting, nitpicking, being stubborn, lazy, or letting lust rule your life, etc. The more we practice good habits now, the more we will form the core foundation of a healthy happily-ever-after.
Advice #6 – Learn to Sacrifice:
Many people are shocked at the sacrifice and work marriage takes, especially if their relationship was quick and very emotionally driven. It may be possible to feel like you’re losing yourself, especially if you are used to having things your way.
To aid you in this discipline of sacrifice and giving, I would recommend doing one thing a day that needs to be done, but that you don’t feel like doing. For example, if you come home from a long day at work, and the last thing you desire doing is washing the dishes, then, that’s exactly what you should do. If you really want to sit down and watch TV, but the table from dinner still needs to be clear, do that first. Also, from time to time, choose to do things in a way that is opposite of the way you like to do them.
You won’t like it. It won’t be fun. But, it will make you more selfless. It will pull you out of yourself (crucial), build character, and form a discipline that will enable you to give generously in the future without great effort. Selfishness is the great destroyer of love and marriage.
It is necessary to love our spouse and give of ourselves, especially when we don’t feel like it. That is the recipe for true love!