>Wanted: Conflict Manager

>I’m glad I went to small group tonight. We discussed a lot of issues pertaining to trust, relationships, and resolving conflict. In third grade, we had a program at our school called “conflict managers” where we were coached in how to effectively resolve conflict and other kids would come to us with their problems. If they only knew how I really tried to resolve conflict…

I used to be a dirty fighter… verbal garbage spewing, red face fuming, cuss words flying, bygone issues of the past being brought back to life… and then I met Aaron. And he refused to yell. Interesting that we both grew up with yelling being part of conflict but he hated it and I embraced it. I didn’t embrace it for long because he has always refused to yell back at me. So I stopped yelling because it wasn’t doing any good. Not that it does anyway, but there’s a very sick satisfaction in getting the other person to yell back. He would just walk away, and that’d piss me off even more.
He forced me to be patient during an argument (or “discussion” as they are commonly called in our house). He expected me to calmly (what?!!) relate to him details of what I felt or thought the way I did about something. I was afraid he would leave. One time during an argument when I was yelling my head off (surprise, surprise), he said he was going for a walk. I made a human barrier in front of the door and told him that to get out the door, he’d have to get past me first. I’m not sure if he chuckled, but I would have if I were him.
This was in the first year of marriage, and probably the first six months. I learned quickly that if I were going to get a point across, I didn’t have to yell it. He would actually listen and acknowledge what I had to say. He wouldn’t yell back or actually leave… there would be no silent treatments. And we would actually resolve all issues before going to sleep, even if that meant waiting hours while I moved to the very very edge of the bed without falling off, pretending like I was still mad. 
We’ve always worked out our conflicts this way: not letting the sun go down on our anger.
Even into the second year of marriage, our arguments would go like this.
Elizabeth: [sigh]
Aaron: What’s wrong? or Whatcha thinkin’?
Elizabeth: Nothing.
Aaron: Are you sure? You seem like there’s something wrong.
Elizabeth: Yes, I’m fine.
      silence. ribbit. ribbit. crickets….
Elizabeth: Well, it’s just that…. [monologue]

And then the argument might escalate from there. Often I would assume he would have a much more negative response than he did. It was always so anticlimactic, too, because I imagined he would react like me:  yelling and scaring all small children within a 50-foot radius. 
But he never has. Sure, he’s raised his voice when I’ve been present, but that’s only so he can hear himself over the harsh din of my emotional outcry.
Oh. I almost forgot to mention the funniest thing I do during an argument. I try to hide as long as I can in my corner of the ring. Aaron likes to say “I love you” and hug me and grab a hold of my hand or something while I’m angry with him. He’s doing it because he really does love me and wants me to know it, and also I think secretly because he knows it ticks me off. Once I hear those words or get close to him, all bets are off. I might as well raise my white flag of surrender… sigh. Men and their magic. 
So partly this post was to show you how ridiculous it is to fight like that… just say what needs to be said and talk like adults. And partly it is to mark the three years we’ve been married (this coming Monday). We’ve made a lot of progress in that short amount of time.
And how could I forget, the best part is what we get to do after an argument or fight………. Go get ice cream! [Duh!]

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Elizabeth

Exploring, reading, running, teaching, traveling, yoga, in alphabetical order.

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