Delaying Confrontations in Marriage

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Delaying confrontations with your spouse can sometimes cause problems. Waiting and piling one problem on top of another can be problematic. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s a good thing—particularly when it’s a time to H.A.L.T. That would be a time when either of you is Hungry, Angry, or Tired. Your spouse may be more receptive to hearing what you have to say if you avoid those times. But what if YOU are the one who needs to delay the confrontation? Lets face it:

“There are times in marriage when we just can’t face a confrontation. Too much other bad stuff has happened that day; or we are feeling stripped of all our diplomatic powers; or we are feeling too fragile for criticism. It’s OK in such cases to say, ‘I can’t talk about this now. I’m too angry/hurt/distracted. Let’s talk after dinner/after I get back from my run/tomorrow morning.’ You have an obligation to hear about problems, but you have the right to hear them on your own terms.

“If the timing is off, it’s best to admit that you can’t listen very well right now, but that you’d like to talk at a later time. If you use this as an avoidance strategy, your partner will rightly sense it and call you on it. But if you are judicious and honest in your response, your spouse may honor your needs because he [she] sees that you really want to resolve the problem, not just argue about it.” (Toni Sciarra Poynter, from the book, “From This Day Forward: Inspirations for Couples”)

Delaying Confrontations

We bring this up because we’ve sure been there ourselves, as a married couple. When our sons were younger it was especially a problem for us. It seems that regularly there would be something we needed to “talk” about and work through. I confess that I wasn’t always sensitive to approaching Steve at the best time. I didn’t know about the H.A.L.T. method of delaying confrontations. Oh how I wish I had known about it!

And Steve didn’t know, when he felt the need, to ask for a delay until he was in a better emotional place to work through the problem that was facing us. In truthfulness, I may not have gone along with it anyway. I was pretty immature in the way I handled upsetting issues. I/we didn’t know that timing our confrontations could have helped us to work issues through in healthier ways.

Fortunately, I/we have learned a few things through the years. Much of it was after we approached matters in dysfunctional ways. Some of what we’ve learned has been through our studying and then applying healthy marital skills. We’ve also had to unlearn and purposefully push ourselves away from “stinking thinking” and doing what we shouldn’t.

Delaying Confrontations When It’s Healthier

It’s important to speak AND listen to each other so we build relationship bridges. When we marry we enter into a marriage partnership. Partners stretch themselves to speak the “truth in love.” That’s what we’re told to do in the Bible when we speak.

And on the reverse side, if we aren’t ready to listen to the issues that our spouse wants to “discuss” with us then we need to say so. But we should be polite about it. Politely tell our spouse if we’re too tired, impatient, or too stressed out to talk about a confronting issue.

However, if we ask for a delay in talking a problem through, we need to also be proactive in making ourselves available to talk later. Don’t ask for a delay and then let it drop. If it’s important to our spouse, we should make it our priority, as well. Be a proactive partner with your spouse in making your life work together.

As we’re told in God’s word:

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel. Instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.(2 Timothy 2:23-26)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.(Romans 14:19)

As you do so, may God bless your marriage all the more!

Cindy and Steve Wright

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