The night before our first premarital counseling session Mark and I were in the middle of one of our biggest fights ever. What about, you ask? About whether we needed premarital counseling or not.
Mark: You’re a freaking counselor! You of all people know that this is a good thing for us.
Marie: Bull. Sure, premarital is great when you’re just going because your pastor is making you. We’re going because you think we have problems. And we don’t. have. problems. We are going to make our relationship better.
Mark: Yes, better. Better in that we’ll work through our problems. We’ve been arguing about counseling for the past 3 hours. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. WE HAVE PROBLEMS.
Marie: Well, if our problems are so big that we need counseling, why on earth are we even talking about marriage?!?
Mark: Because I love you!
On the surface it does look like we’re arguing about counseling, should we go or not. But that wasn’t what was happening. At least not all that was happening.
In my family, things that are broken get thrown away or are ignored. Once something is broken it is seen as useless and has no hope for repair. Buying a brand new something is seen as the only solution.
Mark’s family is infinitely more creative and resourceful. He loves problems, and is more likely to become inspired rather than defeated when something breaks down.
Discussing premarital counseling caused these two world views to collide. And the fact that these two world views had the same vocabulary did not help.
When Mark said that we had “problems” that counseling could help “fix” I did not hear just that. No, I heard an underlying meaning. The meaning that said we had “problems” and that he was moments away from throwing our relationship away. Just like how my family throws things away when they break, rather than trying to fix them. I did not want to throw anything away, so I was not about to say there were problems.
Mark, on the other hand, saw me freaking out and refusing to acknowledge very obvious “problems” in how we communicated (what do you mean hysterical crying doesn’t accurately convey the message “You’re a loser”?). He simply wanted to fix them, and my resistance sent the message that I wasn’t “in it to win it”. He had already been down the “I don’t want to deal with problems” route, and wasn’t interested in going on that trip again.
One of the biggest mistakes in communicating with anyone is thinking that our definition and history with a word is the same as another’s. There are words and phrases in every person’s life that can pack an emotional punch that no one sees coming. Sometimes we are so unaware of our self that we have no clue that we’re reacting to a word or a phrase instead of the present situation.
I think we were still fighting when we ended up in the counselor’s office the next day. So not how I planned on our first session of “we’re so in love” premarital counseling going down, but whatever. We ended up learning some really great communication techniques that helped us better prepare for the inevitable world view collisions.
What words or phrases seem to consistently set you off? What’s the history with the word or phrase? How wrong is it, exactly, to call your husband a “donkey butt”? What if it was said in love?