About the Guest
Would your spouse say they feel “heard”? Authors Kevin & Marcia Myers help unearth a new level of intimacy through the power of intentionally listening.
Kevin: About ten years in, we figured it out; and we wrote Fair Fight Rules. Now, we were learning them all along.
Kevin: But I’ll give you the first/just the beginning of the principle: “When you’re under pressure, and you have conflict, you want to be heard. The objective is not to be heard, but to hear. So my job is to listen, and our rule is I have not listened until she says I have.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I remember sitting at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway two weeks before our wedding.
Dave: It was a phenomenal weekend. In fact, I’ve got to say this before we jump in: “If you want to go to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember, sign up right now; because it’s half off.”
Ann: Yes; they’re happening right now.
Dave: We paid full price in 1980! [Laughter]
Ann: We did! And you can get half off.
Dave: Yes; and you can do that at FamilyLifeToday.com. I’m telling you: it will literally change your marriage.
But we were sitting there, engaged; two weeks from that Saturday, we were going to be getting married. And I’ll never forget, Dennis Rainey was on the stage—and you know, at the time, president and founder of FamilyLife—and he said something like this—and I know exactly, because it’s in the manual; we now teach it—
Dave: —he says, “Conflict is common to all marriages. All marriages go through—
Ann: And what did you think?
Dave: “Oh, what did you think?!” I mean, we were sitting there, before we were getting married, and we both thought, “Not our marriage!” [Laughter]
Ann: I really thought, “There has been no one on the entire planet who has loved each other the way we do—[Laughter]—no one!” I think every couple thinks that: “Nothing compares to our love for one another.”
Dave: I remember sitting around, watching all these couples take notes! We didn’t take any notes. [Laughter] I just remember thinking, “They don’t love Jesus like we do.
Dave: “They obviously don’t love each other like we do.”
Ann: “They’re not going into full-time ministry the way we are.”
Dave: And then we got married. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes, we did.
Dave: Was it a week?
Ann: No, it was like—we had a great first five months. [Laughter]
Dave: We did?
Dave: Okay, so we’ll say five months later. I mean, there were struggles; but we were fighting—
Dave: —daily, if not hourly—
Dave: —within five months. And I think many marriages experience that. We’ve got to talk about that!
Ann: Well, I think, too, Dave/I think a lot of couples get into marriage, thinking it’s going to be great; and they don’t have a handle on how to deal with conflict. We didn’t. And that’s what we learned at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Dave: Yes; we actually pulled that manual out later.
Ann: And we’re going to get some help on conflict today as well.
Dave: Yes, we’ve got Kevin and Marsha Myers back in the studio with us. They wrote a book called The Second Happy, which is a great title for a marriage book. It’s like, “There’s another happy available to us?” You know, we had the first happy; right?
Kevin: Right; right.
Dave: Then we have a second; but anyway, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Marsha: Thank you!
Dave: Glad to have you.
Marsha: Good to see you.
Dave: Yes; you guys are pastoring in the Atlanta area.
Kevin: We are.
Dave: For thirty—
Kevin: —three years?—thirty-four?—somewhere in there.
Dave: You know, it is interesting; a lot of people in the church tend to think that pastors’ marriages are just—
Dave: You’re like us—we’ve said from the stage—“We have problems; we struggle.”
One of the things you talk about in your book is how to do conflict well, so let’s talk about that.
Kevin: [Laughing] Because we were so good at it from the beginning! [Laughter] We could have taught the conference you attended, but we weren’t invited. [Laughter] So far from the truth!
Ann: Well, it’s interesting; because earlier, you’ve already talked about that, Marsha, you kind of shut down a little more in conflict.
Marsha: Yes; yes.
Ann: And Kevin—I’m guessing that you’re coming in there, like pretty—
Kevin: I’m afraid so. [Laughter]
Ann: —you’re not afraid to deal with conflict.
Dave: So how did that go for you guys? How did you guys fight, or how do you guys fight?
Marsha: Pretty much—
Kevin: Poorly then!
Marsha: —what he said; yes! He mostly was on the attack. It’s not that I can’t hold my own, but in my own way. As I said before, I’m stubborn—and also, the silent treatment kind of thing; you know?—
Marsha: —where then, “I’m going to ignore you.”
My best attack, I’ll have to say, but not really godly, was on Sunday mornings when he was preaching,—
Ann: Oh, no.
Marsha: —just having like—looking at him and staring at him, like with arms folded.
Kevin: Oh, wait, wait, wait. Okay; to this day—come on now.
Dave: You did this?—
Marsha: Yes, I did.
Dave: —during the service?
Kevin: Oh, yes.
Ann: I did this too.
Dave: So you’re up there preaching, and you’re in a conflict.
Kevin: This is the part people don’t understand when they say, “Well, your marriage must be fine.”
Kevin: Listen; we have learned how to look better than we live, and a lot of people have that art.
Kevin: And that’s almost part of the pressure in pastoring, but let’s not pretend it’s limited to that.
Kevin: People know how to come to church and look better than they live.
Dave: Oh, yes!
Kevin: So gunny sacking conflict, or pushing it to the side, or just volcanically—which, mine would be more volcanically.
Ann: Me too.
Kevin: I would get pushed to rage, and I’m going to be verbally aggressive—
Kevin: —get it off my chest—simultaneously: “You ought to listen and perhaps agree with me.” [Laughter] My conflict resolution style was: “I’m right. Listen, and you’ll discover that. Agree with me, and we’ll resolve conflict.”
Marsha: Yes; “Then it can all be over!”
Kevin: For some reason—I know people listening can’t understand what I’m talking about, because no couple has ever done this—[Laughter]
Kevin: —but I couldn’t understand; I used to say to her, “You know, people will come and counsel with me. [Laughter]
Marsha: It’s true!
Dave: “They want my advice!”
Kevin: “They want my advice, and you dismiss it. Isn’t that a clue to you?” [Laughter]
Ann: “Because I am smart and godly.”
Kevin: Keep going.
Marsha: “And people love me!”
Kevin: —“and wise and discerning; and they love me. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
Dave: So what have you learned about conflict?
Kevin: Probably the most helpful thing—I don’t know; I’m overstating, perhaps—
Ann: One of the most.
Kevin: —the most used thing by other people/that they say has helped them the most is the Fair Fight Rules.
Dave: Oh, good.
Kevin: About ten years in, we figured it out; and we wrote Fair Fight Rules. Now, we were learning them all along.
Kevin: But I’ll give you the first/just the beginning of the principle:
When you’re under pressure, and you have conflict, you want to be heard. What’s understandably broken all of us is that you think communication requires you being heard and that conflict resolution begins with them hearing you. The difficulty is [mistakenly believing], once you’ve been heard, you’re emotionally done; and that’s the beginning of real communication and conflict resolution.
The objective is not to be heard, but to hear. That has been said through Scripture; that has been said in leadership circles; that’s been said at marriage conferences. This is easy to say; it’s incredibly complex to do.
Ann: I’m thinking of James 1.
Ann: That we should be “quick to listen.”
Kevin: Ann, do you know what we do? We take Scriptures like that, and we read them to our spouse. [Laughter]
Kevin: The whole point of it was for you to take that in.
Kevin: But I would read it and say, “Marsha, be quick to listen. [Laughter]
Dave: “Slow to speak and slow to anger.”
Kevin: “Honey, that’s what’s broke right here.”
Everybody has that challenge on one side or the other, so we set up what we call rules: Fair Fights.
Kevin: You watch them boxing or whatever fighting style you prefer that’s in the legal realm. They set a time; they’ve got rules.
We have pre-fight set-up, and then we have Fair Fight Rules. It’s three phases:
- It’s communication, and that’s four rounds;
- It’s compromise, and that’s four rounds;
- And if necessary, counseling; four rounds.
It’s not overly complicated. But if you don’t know how to resolve conflict, you have to be mechanical before you’re emotional, or you’ll never build the capacity to resolve it; and that’s what’s hard.
Kevin: You get emotional because: “This is intense! And this is a person who’s supposed to love you, and you don’t feel loved. You feel rejected, or dismissed, or unheard; or ‘You don’t understand,’ ‘You don’t care!’”
The first segment of communication—and it’s because she’s already said I’m forceful, and I am; [Laughter] I talk too much, and I know it—and she talks too little, and she knows it. Now, listen—if you’re a couple, and you’re listening to this—part of communication is being honest with who you are.
Ann: And you’re really/you’re looking at your differences; and now, you’re honoring them; right?
Ann: “You’re just different than I am, and that’s okay.
Ann: “God’s made you a certain way.
Ann: “And we all have things that have happened in our past that create some wounds that, maybe, shut us down or make us loud. I think that’s a good thing to know, and it’s okay.”
Marsha: That’s true; very good.
Kevin: So for us then, the rules, Ann, had to be—under Communication, four rounds—first round is: “She speaks; I listen.”
Ann: And you can say nothing?
Kevin: She always speaks first, no matter who calls the Fair Fight. So if we want to fight on something, and we’ve got conflict, somebody has to call a Fair Fight. They have to explain it in about sixty seconds—what it is—we set a date and a time.
Ann: Okay, give us an example; show us.
Marsha: Coming home late.
Kevin: So what would you say?
Marsha: “Kevin, I want to have a fight.” And you would be like, “Whaaat?” And I would say—
Dave: I like how you do him: “Whaaat?” [Laughter]
Kevin: Pretty accurate!
Marsha: But honestly, almost always, whoever calls for the Fair Fight, the other one does not want to do it.
Marsha: But because it’s in the rules, we will; we obey the rules.
Ann: So you say, “I want to have a fair fight.”
Marsha: The one who wants the fight has to declare what it is. I would say, “You’re always coming home late. I have the dinner made, and we’re waiting for you. I have children; they need to eat. We need to work this out.”
And then we say, “Okay.” Instead of going into the fight right then, we decide when we want to fight.
Kevin: That’s really important. I cannot respond—that’s one of the rules—I don’t legitimize or dismiss her request.
Kevin: I even try not to roll my eyes. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, that’s good; because body language—
Ann: —tells a lot.
Kevin: And so we have to get out the calendar and decide: “When are we going to fight?”
Dave: I mean, do you try to do it soon instead of waiting a week or waiting a day?
Kevin: Yes; but if calendars are heavy, and with kids’ activities, the kids have to be in bed for us at that season of time. We have to be emotionally capable to engage. Sometimes it’s days down the road. It has to be concentrated time.
Ann: One of the things that would be good about this is you have time to pray.
Ann: Now, you could go one of two ways. I used to build my case in that time, like, “I’m going to say this, and he’s going to say this; but I’m going to win, because I’m going to do this!”
But what I’ve learned—and I’m sure you guys, too—that gives you time, like: “Lord, check my heart. How should I say this? How should I bring it up? Is there anything I’m missing?” I like that it gives you a little time; that’s good.
Marsha: Yes; that’s true.
Kevin: And it requires that of you. If you follow Christ, the Holy Spirit’s going to do that, whether you’re asking Him to or not.
Dave: That’s good.
Kevin: That’s just who He is.
Dave: Now, is it hard to not go into it right there? Because if Marsha/I mean, Marsha used a word that we say at FamilyLife—
Dave: “Don’t use ‘always.’”
Dave: So if Ann would say, “You’re always late,” I would be/you know, “We can talk about this tomorrow, but I’m not always…”; you know?
Dave: So do you find yourself—like I have to exercise self-control—I do want to do it right now, and it’s not going to go well if I do it right now. So you learn; you practice; you build the habit.
Kevin: That’s mechanical—
Kevin: —versus emotional.
Kevin: When we say, “You have to walk the mechanical process, not emotional.”
Kevin: That’s [emotional] what makes it nearly impossible to resolve conflict.
Kevin: Because when you express your emotions, you are rarely loving. Love is a discipline; it’s not an emotion.
Dave: Yes, yes.
Kevin: To value someone is a discipline; it’s a choice you make. I have surrendered that we are one; and therefore, I care about this; because she cares about this. Therefore, she gets to call the fight. We set the time; she starts. Even if I call the fight, she starts.
Dave: Wait, wait, wait. Why does she start?
Kevin: She always starts, because I’m too forceful. [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, so it’s a choice in your marriage.
Kevin: I truly am—
Kevin: —in our marriage. We don’t think it’s true for everybody.
Kevin: Here’s what we’ve discovered: I cannot start without me solving it while I start; and I have got to learn to shut up, and she’s got to learn to speak up. We’re not going to build resolved conflict, authentic love, true companionship, and intimacy if we don’t learn to communicate. Solving conflict is at the heart of communication.
Ann: I really like that you’re even/like it’s a good conversation of who would start.
Ann: I’m thinking about that for us. I’m sure people are listening, thinking, “Hmm; who would start in our relationship?” I think you would start.
Dave: I’m glad you think that, [Laughter] because I was thinking the same thing.
Kevin: Dave, congratulations.
Dave: There we go.
Okay; so now, when you come to the actual fight, walk us through it.
Marsha: Like he said, I would go first, no matter what.
Ann: I don’t understand how you do that. If you have an issue, Kevin—you’ve already stated what it’s about—how would Marsha—
Dave: —start it?
Ann: —start it, if she doesn’t really know everything?
Kevin: Nine times out of ten, if you have a conflict in your relationship, you both know it; and you both have a different perspective. So when I call for a fight, and I say, “I want to talk about finances; I want to talk about your spending.” [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, maybe you would know! [Laughter]
Marsha: I do exactly!
Kevin: She immediately has an opinion. I want to talk about our parenting of Julisa, our daughter, our second child; and I have to say something about that. I say, “I think we’re over-disciplining her on this,” or “I think we’re not addressing this,” or “I think we’re over-investing in this,” or “This is frustrating me; it seems like you’re dismissing me.”
Ann: So you’ve given her enough that she knows.
Marsha: Yes, yes.
Ann: Got it.
Kevin: I’ve given a statement—I can’t go into it—there’s a difference between giving context and trying to win. I have to give context; we already know this. This is not: “Oh, we don’t know we have conflict!” [Laughter]
Kevin: Yes; we know we have conflict.
Dave: Yes; so even though you brought it up, she’s still going to start.
Kevin: That’s how we’ve done it.
Marsha: And then after the first person gives their perspective, the other person—instead of just automatically rebutting—
Marsha: —has to tell you back what they said.
Kevin: My job is to listen. Our rule is I have not listened until she says I have. We have literally had fights, where it took an hour for us to do round one—for her to speak and me to listen—until she said, “You have heard me, head and heart. You have said what I said, and you’ve said it with the right heart.”
Dave: So you restate back—
Dave: —and you say, “Here’s what I’m hearing,”—and you go, “No, no, no, no; that’s not what I’m saying,”—
Kevin: That’s it!
Dave: —until you get to: “Yes, you’ve heard me; and you understand me.”
Dave: Now, you can go to the next round.
Kevin: That process, however long it takes in the early stages of learning how to communicate, always shaves some of the rough edges off from a guy like me.
Ann: —from anyone; yes.
Kevin: Whoever has this dynamic in them, the Holy Spirit will soften your edges.
Kevin: Because we can’t go on. Now, it’s at that moment that you just want to be able to say, “Well, there you go! You can’t…”; and I want to just run!
Kevin: When you quit on communication, and you let conflict reign in your relationship, you’re going to be alone; but you chose it. This is hard work. And we’ve been doing this for a lot of years; so we don’t have to do it with the mechanics that we’re talking about right now,—
Kevin: —but we did for some years.
Kevin: So then, it’s my turn once she says, “I’ve heard you.”
Well, she sometimes has to write her thoughts out to bring to me. I don’t have to write mine out! [Laughter] I have them in my head.
Kevin: “Let’s go! I’m ready.”
Ann: But it’s a good idea sometimes probably—
Kevin: Oh, it’s very helpful!
Ann: —to write it out.
Marsha: Oh, yes.
Kevin: So then, I get to share my perspective. She has to respond until I say she’s understood me, head and heart.
And when you have walked through those four, if you will, “rounds,” you have accomplished communication. Everybody wants to solve a problem before they understand the problem. It’s often broke, because you want to compromise before you communicate.
My job is not to say, “Alright, here’s what I think the problem is; and here’s what we’ll do.”
Ann: Would you like to do that?
Kevin: Every single time. [Laughter] In fact, sometimes I start with, “Here’s what we should do, and here’s why…” [Laughter] I start with the solution;—
Kevin: —so this discipline of communication before you find a solution.
The Phase Two is four rounds of compromise. She has to give a solution. Then I make sure that I understand, and I give a solution. Then we negotiate until we find one.
Marsha: And it does kind of help you understand the other person, too,—
Marsha: —as you’re doing it, because [it’s] something you wouldn’t have thought of. I’m not Kevin, and he’s not Marsha; you go, “Oh, well, that’s how he thinks!” And now you understand how he thinks; so that the next time you have a conflict, you have that piece of: “Oh, he usually thinks this way; so maybe the conflict isn’t what I think it is.”
Marsha: You kind of mix the two.
Ann: And the beauty is you’re really getting to know each other.
Marsha: Right; exactly!
Ann: Exactly what you’re saying, Marsha: you’re understanding one another so much better.
Marsha: Yes, yes.
Kevin: Ann, you asked her, at the beginning, to give an example of a fight.
Kevin: Let’s play this out for people. Remember the “You’re always home late”? Let’s take them to our compromise.
Marsha: After we went through the rounds of communication—and then we went to compromise—he, of course, made his points of the fact that sometimes he has to go; he’s a pastor!
Marsha: He has appointments, or something/an emergency crops up; he can’t help that. But there are other times when he just needs to finish something; you know? He wants to do it; wants to get it done. So we decided that we would set a specific time for dinner and that he promised he would be home.
Kevin: I agreed with her; I said:
I agree with you. You make a meal—we’re trying to build family—we’re in a season of building family. We said we value family above the work I do. I’m valuing my work above our family, because we have a very small slot in which to engage in family togetherness. It’s between 5:30 and 7:00, and I’m blowing it.
I will get up earlier. I will get these sections of things done for an hour or two at work, alone in the office; so that by the time I make it to the end of the day, I have margin. I’ll be home at 5:30, and you can count on me. Now, if I’m not, it’s because there’s an emergency; I’ll call.
Kevin: But I’m going to move it from the exception to the rule—and vice versa, which means, as a rule, I was late—I made that an exception. That honors her; that requires change for me; that puts our family in the place of value that we both said it had. And it literally changed the way I do my calendar and life. It changed the way I think!
Marsha: And I felt like, when he was late, there was a good reason.
Marsha: So it didn’t create the same conflict or exasperation that it would have.
Kevin: When you solve conflict, you also solve future conflict.
Kevin: When you actually resolve conflict—
Marsha: Yes, absolutely.
Kevin: —you set up a marriage where you have less and less conflict over time, because you literally build the mutual honoring, mutual understanding, and mutual grace. We have all sorts of grace, because we know the other person is committed to one another.
Dave: Yes, and I love the concept you developed of “mechanical before emotional.”
Dave: Because we often get in a fight, and we/I’ve done this, like, “Forget the mechanical, we need to just…”
Ann: —because emotions take over; right.
Dave: And it’s like, “No, no, no!” You can’t forget that; that is critical. It’s like—obviously, as a guy who played football and was around the NFL forever—it’s out of bounds.
Dave: And when you step out of bounds, the play is over. There are rules—mechanical—and they help you get to compromise; they help you get to resolution. As you said so well, that helps you in the future.
Dave: I mean, I’m thinking of a couple right now that has not been able to fight well. You have just given them tools to help them fight well. If you forget, listen to this again. Better yet, get the book, The Second Happy; read through the chapters together and say, “Let’s implement this in our marriage. I think it will take us to a whole other place.”
Conflict is every day. It’s part of every relationship, every church, every team, every business, every family; and we don’t get any training on how to do it well. Today’s been a training session on how to do it well. Thank you; this has been awesome.
Bob: If you take a minute and look back on your life, I’m guessing very few of us had any actual training in conflict and conflict resolution. What you saw in your home, growing up, may have been a destructive pattern; but it’s all you knew. Or maybe you saw nothing; maybe your mom and dad never modeled for you what healthy conflict resolution looks like. I’m guessing most of us have never had any kind of actual, formal training on resolving conflict.
At the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that we host all around the country, we spend time walking couples through the biblical principles about conflict resolution that can help us get to a place where we actually resolve conflict, where we can be at peace with one another, where we can honor and respect one another. I mention that because, right now, there’s a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. If you’d like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, you can save
50 percent off the regular registration fee.
We have three or four dozen of these events happening in cities all around the country this spring. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; click the link to find information about when a getaway is being hosted in a city near where you live; block out that weekend; and then register today so you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. This offer is good this week and next week only, so you need to act on this quickly. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the getaway. Find out when it’s coming to a city near where you live. You can register online. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY; we can answer your questions over the phone.
Again, make plans to come to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, not just to learn about conflict resolution, but about healthy marital intimacy, about God’s purpose and design for marriage, about the roles for husbands and the roles for wives. All of it is covered at the Weekend to Remember. Again, you can register online right now at FamilyLifeToday.com and receive 50 percent off the regular registration fee.
While you’re on our website, check out the book that Kevin and Marsha Myers have written called The Second Happy: Seven Practices to Make Your Marriage Better than Your Honeymoon, a great book for couples to go through together. If you’re in a small group with other couples, this would be a great small group study to go through as well. Again, check out The Second Happy on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear more about how to address the hard-to-talk-about subjects in marriage, the elephants in the room. How do we wisely bring up important subjects that could be difficult to talk about? Dave and Ann Wilson will talk with Kevin and Marsha Myers about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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