January 18, 2022

Marriage: You Can’t Play the Game If You Don’t Know the Rules

In marriage, you can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules.

Have you ever played a game with someone, but you both were using different rules? The inevitable result would be a never-ending and very confusing game. Before you start a game, you go over the rules, right?

So often we approach our relationships, and particularly our marriages, with two different rule books.

In this episode of Life In Motion, Heather and Jamie sit down with their husbands, Whit and Brian, to talk about how they survive conflict in marriage (and heated game nights).

Unmet expectations are often un-communicated expectations.

People can’t read minds, though sometimes we proceed as if our expectations are obvious and others should innately understand them. This usually isn’t a conscious belief, but we have all probably been guilty of assuming the unsaid is a given. I’m guilty of this all the time—resulting in unnecessary disappointment.

The breakdown of a marriage is all too often tied to a breakdown in communication. As expectations go unmet, resentments grow, assumptions are made, motivations are inferred, and the chasm is widened.

When core values are violated, tensions arise.

Your core values are your guiding principles and highest priorities. Conflict often arises because a core value feels disregarded.

For instance, maybe timeliness is a core value of yours. When someone is late, it communicates to you that your time is not being honored or valued. However, maybe one of your husband’s core values is generosity­­­; he was late to pick you up because he stopped on the way to get you a coffee. But his lateness already violated a core value, so now you are annoyed but with a coffee in hand that you didn’t ask for.

Ask yourself, What are my core values?

Sometimes we have core values that aren’t serving us anymore, and sometimes we have ingrained values we’re not even aware of.

Make it a habit to stop and assess, what is the value that is being violated, and is it worth defending?

“Do you want to have peace, or do you want to be right?”

Sometimes, in conflict you reach a deadlock.

It’s okay to take a step back to process and assess.

Here are some practical tips for getting past the rough patches:

Stay curious

Don’t assume you know you partner’s motivations or feelings if they haven’t expressed them. ASK, and then when they tell you, LISTEN.

As St. Francis of Assisi wrote,“Seek to understand rather than to be understood.”

Easier said than done, right? But there is no better way to love your partner than to meet them where they’re at.

→Ask yourself, am I fighting for us, or am I fighting for me?

Don’t forget that you’re on the same team, and you ultimately want the same thing: reconciliation.

So, learn the rules!

Stop playing that never ending and confusing game and play by the same rules. There is no easy way out of conflict, but a great place to start is by practicing clear communication and explicitly expressing needs and expectations.

It won’t be easy, but it is so worth it.

If you’ve been harboring some resentment, read our blog on ways to better name emotions and release resentment.



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