10 Teves 5779 / Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayechi
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Courageous Conflict    

Courageous Conflict

The wife would get upset, become emotional and begin yelling. The husband, overwhelmed by the intensity of his wife's emotions and the hurtful words she hurled at him, shut down…


I once worked with a married couple who had developed a destructive form of fighting that was leaving them frustrated, depressed and thinking of divorce.


What always happened was this: the wife would get upset, become emotional and begin yelling. The husband, overwhelmed by the intensity of his wife's emotions, the look on her face and the hurtful words she hurled at him, shut down. He just froze. His subsequent lack of response made his wife even more aggressive and abusive. He then sank deeper into himself refusing to become involved and would sometimes just walk out the door. Both of them were miserable.


Look how amazing Hashem is! What a remarkable recipe for growth He gave this couple!


The first step was creating an awareness of how each spouse had learned to handle conflict and to examine the good and bad within each style in order to develop a better way to communicate.


In the wife's family of origin, yelling hysterically at each other was how they did things. And after everyone blew off steam there were tears, apologies and forgiveness. It wasn't healthy or pleasant but at least they expressed themselves.


The husband came from a family where arguing was taboo. Conflicts were avoided and hard feelings were shared with anyone but the person you were upset with. This lead to a lot of gossip and tense undercurrents but on the surface everything was calm. No one ever fought face to face.


The wife became ready to stop acting so dramatic and the husband was ready to face his fear of being confronted.


They came up with a wonderful plan. The wife wrote out a list of things that her husband should say to her if she starts to go off the deep end. Some of the things were:


1. Calm down. I'm not leaving until we work this out.

2. I love you and I can see you're upset

3. Let's sit down, have coffee and talk about it.


In other words, the wife needed reassurance that her husband would stay until the conflict was resolved and that he loved her even though she was freaking out. The husband was willing to say these things but he was worried that it would sound stupid and phony, after all he was just reading lines off paper. I explained to him that any new way of doing things feels awkward at first but eventually he would feel more comfortable.


For the wife's part, she had to agree that if he said any of those things on her list she had to calm down and speak at a much lower volume. She cannot give him rules she designed and then refuse to play by them.


The husband needed to promise his wife that he would no longer complain about her to his family, something that had caused her a lot of anguish. He understood that from now on his marriage would cease to be a topic of conversation between him and his family. She, in turn, agreed to “let him” resume his relationship with his brother, a relationship she had made him give up because she knew that they discussed her.


The husband is now praying for the fortitude to bear his wife's emotions and the ability to handle face to face confrontation. The wife is praying for more restraint and sensitivity in the way she speaks when she is hurt or angry.


The qualities of courage, loyalty and the desire to grow: no marriage can survive without them.



* * *

Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen is a certified Emuna Therapist for Breslev Israel. You can set up an appointment with her by contacting staff@breslev.co.il 

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