When my dad got hit by lightning playing golf, someone asked, “Why were you standing under a tree?” But a better question would be, “Why did you hit the ball into the woods in the first place?” Because, like avoiding blowups in marriage, mindful prevention is typically a lot easier than playing dodge with 300 million volts!
My dad didn’t hit the ball there on purpose; he just never practiced enough to make sure his game stayed in the short grass. The same can be said of marital problems. We don’t try to have them on purpose. Typically we don’t find ourselves in trouble (or in danger) when we’re kind, encouraging, and doing the right thing. Certain conditions always cause sparks to fly or storms to blow, so here are 5 ways to stay safe when a marital storm is blowing up.
1. Be proactive rather than reactive.
If we are kind, thoughtful, and positive by design, then there is simply less kindling on hand when the occasional spark does fly. So serve your wife—get out of bed before she does and make the coffee for her. Pay her a compliment when she least expects it. Speak her love language often. The odds of your wife snapping at you are a lot lower when she feels loved.The odds of your wife snapping at you are a lot lower when she feels loved.
2. Keep an eye out for approaching storms.
Sometimes conditions are more favorable for escalation, like the other day, when I was under pressure and upset about something unrelated to my marriage. Instead of being mindful, I snapped at my wife when I should have asked her for grace. So be sensitive, and, if necessary, take preventative measures. Don’t leave her in the dark about your mood or your needs. For example, if you’re in a foul mood when your workday ends, text her a heads-up, and tell her what might help—“Bad day at work. I’m gonna need to decompress for a half hour before I can talk about it.”
3. Be skilled enough to stay out of the woods.
Always fine-tune your game. Read articles like this, err on the side of tolerance and kindness, practice compliments and encouragement, be proactive rather than reactive. Make “doing it right” a reflex rather than a lucky strike. This means intentionally creating an environment in which fights are less likely to happen—pay attention when she’s talking, actually do what you tell her you’re going to do, and consider her needs and the kids when you’re making decisions.
4. Don’t be a sharp piece of metal (lightning rod)!
This sounds like a no-brainer, but if we’re honest, we could all use some sanding and buffing around our more jagged edges. Marital bliss is not about perfection so much as a lot of preventative maintenance. When we recognize our own rough edges, we can and should do what we can to smooth them out. So when you realize, for instance, that you have a habit of taking it out on your wife when you’re stressed (or when she points out that you do), make an effort not to do it anymore.
5. Establish emergency protocols.
Simply put, have a plan. If you can’t be 100% effective at avoiding marital problems, then hone your skills of de-escalation. Crisis management saves lives and marriages too. We need to swallow our pride, take responsibility for our part in fights, and make sure our love for our wives is still apparent to them in the midst of a storm.
Sound off: What helps you to avoid escalation when you know marital problems may be coming?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some good ways to stay out of trouble?”