By Lavern Nissley
(Adapted from a presentation by Les and Leslie Parrott, well known relationship authors and educators)
In our almost 41 years of marriage Ronda and I have become experts at conflict. Experts in failure, that is.
But we continue to learn and gain insights into our own foibles and tendencies. You’ll get an inside look into a “prickly” we had just this past week! And a helpful tool that we recently added to our conflict resolution toolkit.
Turkey, check. Mashed potatoes, check. Salad, check. Buns, check. Apple pies, check.
Before leaving for work last Tuesday morning I was loading the dinner we were providing for our board that evening. Ronda had done a great job pulling it all together. Then . . .
Ronda: “Do you think you’ll be able to get this all to the right places? I mean you can’t just leave it in the car when you get to work.”
Lavern: “Uh, yeah, that’s the plan.” (Feeling puzzled)
Ronda: “I feel like if I want it done right, I have to do it myself.”
Lavern: (Feeling REALLY puzzled) “Do you see that I’m loading up everything? That felt like a jab.”
Ronda: (Close to tears) “You sometimes give me the feeling that you don’t want to help. With the vertigo I’ve been going through I just can’t do it myself.”
Lavern: “Honey, I’m glad to help! Is there something recent where you’ve felt I’m not wanting to help?”
Ronda: “Well, several weeks ago you left those chicken breasts in the car trunk.”
Lavern: (She had a valid point there. The smell in our garage was getting worse and worse until she discovered the ill-fated chicken breasts just chilling and smelling things up in the trunk.)
Ronda: “You’ve had a few lapses recently that make me feel like some things aren’t important to you. It kind of affects my trust in your follow through.”
Lavern: (Thinking, “Ouch!”) “Well that just hurts and makes me feel inadequate.” (Also thinking, “Especially since I’m being such a good husband right now with every intention to transport and deliver this food!”)
Ronda: “Well just leave the food. I’ll take it myself.”
One thing we’ve learned about most conflicts is that it’s usually not about about what’s going on at the surface. Most often it’s deeper.
Take a look at this illustration from Les and Leslie Parrott. Which element was Ronda dealing with? Which was I dealing with?
As you think about conflicts close to your own life, are you able to identify with these two elements?
Ronda and I came together later and talked through things productively, able to empathize with the other’s vantage point.
I was challenged to be more mindful of ways I had been neglecting her. Check.
And she took responsibility for her tone that came through as a threat to me. Check.
Thanks, Les and Leslie, for helping us understand ourselves better!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.