“Choose your battles” is usually associated with parental advice. But it also applies to marriage. How do you know which battle to fight and which to drop?
Real-Life Example of a Battle Choice
Married now many, many years, my husband and I know which battles to pursue and which ones to drop. When you’ve been married as long as we have, you learn to choose your battles.
Our disagreements are far less these days than when we were younger. But one area of contention we continually battle over is FOOD.
By his own admission, Dennis doesn’t enjoy cooking nor wants anything to do with planning or prep. (But he is good to clean up the aftermath of my creative messes.) Yet, he is generally pretty quick to tell me how I should cook. Especially holiday meals.
So, when I wanted to cook a turkey breast recently, the battle started. I am always concerned that the bird will be too dry, so after research, I decided to cook it low and slow in the crockpot. Dennis wanted me to roast it in the oven. He was concerned it wouldn’t get done in the slow cooker and was convinced we’d be eating raw turkey and get sick.
For whatever reason, he is convinced I am going to feed him something one day that will make him deathly sick. With 33,580 meals I’ve cooked to date, that is yet to happen.
And, if that should ever happen accidentally, I’ll make sure his tombstone reads “Debbie, I told you the food had gone bad!”
Back to the saga……
When the timer went off, I used a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Instead of registering an accurate 165°F, the number that came up was 82°. So I kept cooking it. Because I didn’t want to make us sick.
By the time I’d checked it the third time, I looked at the thermometer and saw that it was registering CELSIUS. So, yes, the turkey was more than done.
Yay! the turkey was moist, with no pink in sight. Dennis couldn’t accuse me of trying to poison him with raw meat.
And, this is where the real battle was won.
—it wasn’t about the turkey– it was about the miscommunication.
Battles are won with CLEAR COMMUNICATION
Neither of us listened to the other the way we wanted to say it, but we listened the way we wanted to hear it.
From my perspective, Dennis telling me he wanted the turkey breast to be roasted felt like control. He prefers his turkey roasted and drier, whereas I prefer it moist and juicy.
In this “aha” moment, the whole issue was a difference in taste. And, that isn’t a battle worth pursuing.
Clear communication is a goal every marriage needs to improve on. It must be practiced continuously.
The more we coach marriages, the more we find couples do not know how to communicate. They are prone to talk over the other, interrupting and not listening to what their spouse says or wants.
When communication between couples is clear, it isn’t a win-lose battle, but a win-win victory for both.
Once Dennis and I worked backward on how this stupid battle could have been handled differently, we had a good laugh. I still don’t get that he likes dry turkey, but then he doesn’t get some of my preferences either.
How to Have a Win-Win
When you find yourself in a “battle” of disagreement use these steps:
- Give each other a time-out/space for about an hour. Use this time to calm down and relax. Go for a walk, listen to music, read.
- Pick up discussion by one (the Speaker) sharing his/her perspective. “I like roasted, dry turkey because I know it is done that way.”
- Listen to understand, not to judge. The one listening says “I hear you say you don’t want turkey cooked in a crockpot, but roasted in the oven. You prefer turkey to be drier over juicy.”
- If the Speaker feels heard, then reverse. “I was concerned the turkey would be too dry.”
- Looking back at the miscommunication, reframe how you can better say what you want to say to be heard.
- For example, Dennis could have said: “I don’t want to control how you cook the turkey. I prefer eating turkey that has been roasted in the oven instead of the crockpot.” And I could have said “I am concerned the turkey will be way too dry, and I’m researching the best way to cook a moist turkey breast.”
6. Listen to your spouse the way they want to say it, not the way you want to hear it.
7. Remember what’s important. The two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both of you can feel good about.
Effective Conflict Resolution
This has been by far the most effective way for us to solve conflict.
Disagreements are not what harms a marriage relationship. It’s the not resolving them that is damaging.
The Passion Translation interprets the iron sharpening iron concept in Proverbs 27:17 like this:
It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so one person sharpens the character of another.
That’s marriage in a nutshell right there.
Conflict is basically about unclear communication. The one wanting to be heard (the Speaker) gets angry. The one who is listening (the Receiver) gets frustrated, then angry that his effort isn’t enough.
Choose your battles. Be on the winning team with your spouse.
The next time you are in conflict, what will you do to encourage a win-win?
Ask each other to rate your listening score.