Husband and wife in tug-of-war

Dude Skill #3: FIGHT – Part 4


Three Patters Of Communication Breakdown

Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist, suggests that couples reply three basic patterns of communication time and time again when conflict arises and they cannot safely connect with each other.

Find The Bad Guy

This occurs when spouses accuse or blame the other for the current conflict. This “dead-end pattern” keeps spouses at arm’s length, blocking reengagement.

The Protest Polka

This is the most common pattern, which marriage researchers have labeled as “Demand-Withdrawal” or “Criticize-Defend.” When spouses fear that they’ve lost connection, they will go into fight-or-flight mode. One partner will do anything to provide a response. When the other partner perceives this as failure, he or she will begin to freeze up.

Freeze and Flee (Withdraw-Withdraw)

This is the eventual response to the “Protect Polka,” when both spouses lose hope in the relationship. Giving up, they begin to put their emotions and needs in the deep freeze; leaving only numbness and distance.

When You Marry Yourself Or Your Spouse

A major concern Amie and I had as we were approaching marriage centered on our dramatic personality (temperament) differences. We are still dealing with those differences because temperament doesn’t really change. We did, however, see eye to eye on numerous subjects. We had very similar views of spirituality, recreation, and lifestyle. We’ve had little conflict in these areas. And when there has been conflict, we’ve been able to help each other navigate the waters of marriage.

You will also fight about the areas where one partner is strong and the other is weak. I grew up in a broken home. My mom did the best she could to raise me, but having only one involved parent hurts a kid. Mainly because of my bitterness and rebellion. i didn’t learn how to be empathetic to others who are struggling. i was always in “fix it” mode, not “feel it” mode. If someone was hurting, I listened just long enough to give instructions on how to get better. Amie grew up with two parents who listened, loved, and supported her. They weren’t perfect, but they modeled how to listen and connect emotionally with others. She has great strength to connect with the heart of a person.

Two of my friends pretty much married themselves. Both hate structure, preferring to live in the moment, and both had jobs that accommodated their preferences. Being friends with them was a ton of fun because they were so flexible. They were up for anything. This laissez-faire philosophy worked until they had a child. Kids need structure and demand discipline. Our friends nearly divorced trying to reorganize their lives. They were drawing water from a well that was dry because both were weak in the same areas. Consequently, they fought all the time because neither partner could really help the other.

Whether you married yourself or your opposite, there are opportunities and challenges to fight for a good marriage in the realm of disagreement and conflict.


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