Friday, February 4, 2011

Stop ... Look ... & Listen

"A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day."

- Emily Dickinson, "Life"

Now - stop! Read that again, as I did, right there as you look at those words on the computer screen. Read it again. But this time, read it with the pause at the comma, and stop at the period. Give it voice! It was meant to be heard...these meaningful words. You see, it even makes one begin to express themselves poetically.

I've read this poem before, as you may have. However, most recently it was discovered as the opening to a chapter in a book I keep handy for self-reminders, entitled The Power of Two, by Susan Heitler. Dr. Heitler's book speaks to the secrets of a strong and loving marriage. It is a book dedicated to detailed explanations and strategies. If there was ever a moment in your relationship when anger surfaced, Dr. Heitler's depth of scenarios will touch into the landscape for a possible route for bringing the conflict to resolution.

The chapter which uses the Dickinson poem as a lead-in is entitled The Costs of Acting in Anger. What a high price to pay when a partner allows an irritation to spill over into anger, and cause your spouse to suffer emotionally. I remember such times, and they truly frightened me. Perhaps that is why it became so critical to be ever watchful of words which start as slightly cynical, then carelessly leak into a feel of toxicity.

You may assume that I am in pursuit of passages for origination of a wedding script when I mention such a book. You would only be partially correct. Most of the time I am simply activating the monitor in myself, seeking someone else's professional perspective in my quest to ever being the right partner to Elisheva. That link to being mindful and alert to your partner, when irritation is at play, must always quickly activate. Master the techniques which allow for maintenance of the love you know exists. Words projected by a brief surge of anger can have a long-lasting impact on your partner's feelings toward you. Curtail the risks proactively. One can build into the learning pattern one of the most important actions in route to a number of strategies, and that action is called ...STOP!

Stop when you feel angry. Stop interacting. Look, as your anger cools. Try to address the problem again. Look to expand your understanding of the situation, and leave your world of tunnel vision. Listen to your spouse's concerns. Expressing your anger constructively will be easier if your spouse also can listen constructively.

If you need to deal with the problem immediately rather than first cooling down, as you begin to feel angry, the approach may suggest a longer pause to think ahead. Remind yourself of the steps you will be taking, such as naming the feeling, conveying your concerns, asking to find out the other half of the story, then looking for solutions.

No one is saying that these steps are not subject to detours, but if your desire is truly to evaluate and prevent, start with the simple advice generally known to every driver on the road: Stop, look and listen!

The reasons which brought about the anger can be numerous. Just remember that you are almost guaranteeing that your marriage will suffer if you become angry. Heitler indicates in her book that:
"research studies now have shown that married couples who fight are at significantly higher risk for divorce. The test of a marriage's worth may be its positive times, but the best predictor of whether it will endure is the frequency of its bad moments."
Heitler also offers this:
"The costs of dealing with problem situations from a position of anger are high indeed. The power of two in anger is the power to cause harm - to yourself, your partner, your children, your marriage. The good news, however, is that you can create positive solutions to even your most longstanding disagreements. Switching from anger to mutually respectful, problem-solving dialogue can give you new levels of respect and affection for each other, not to mention better personal physical health, emotional well-being, self-esteem, and the ability to live life joyfully together."
There is a promise which we often use in our weddings. Perhaps it is one of the most prominent, although it always seems to make an audience smile, or release a self-conscious laugh. It is the promise to NEVER GO TO BED ANGRY. It falls into this discussion as a constant reminder to bring conflict to resolution quickly and soundly. It may indeed need more than a night for a very sensitive issue, but whichever strategy is needed to return to the loving mode, DO IT NOW.

Incidentally, the stanza from the poem, entitled Art of Marriage, reads,
"It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry."
NOTICE, this is from the "Art" of marriage. The desire for creating that art, that more perfect union, requires in depth investigation.

I return to the final line in the Art of Marriage:

"It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner."

Blessings ... Rev. T. Wade Clegg III