Resolving Conflict with P.R.A.Y. – Part 5 – It’s My Turn

This post is part of a series on resolving conflict. It is of course recommended that you read all parts of the series. Here are the posts you might want to catch up on if you have not already:

I would guess you are feeling one of two ways at this point in the series. 1) If you have been reading but have not been practicing the process you are most likely loosing your patience wondering when you will actually get to solve the problem, 2) if you have been doing ALL of the work along with the series you most likely are feeling closer to your spouse; most importantly you can see some new possible solutions have been revealed from better understanding your spouse’s point of view.

Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4 of the series have now prepared us for the last two steps in P.R.A.Y. and solving the problem.

Remember what the 4-step process of P.R.A.Y. is?

P – Part Ways – TIME OUT.

R – Reconnect with your spouse.

A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings.

Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort.

This post will focus on A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings & Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort. In the last post – Part 4, we focused on R – Reconnect with your spouse. The more effort you put into R – Reconnect with your spouse to listen and understand your spouse’s feelings and concerns the more equipped you will be to successfully complete the last two steps of P.R.A.Y.

  • Disclaimer: If you have tried R – Reconnect with your spouse and you are angry and frustrated, it is possible that you are not following all of our suggestions. Did you start R without the recommended prayer? Did you try to solve the problem instead of listening? Did you shut down your spouse and create an unsafe emotional environment by being distant or difficult? Did you point fingers or play the blame game? Did you tell your spouse how they feel instead of listening? Did you get so wrapped up in yourself and your needs that you ignored your spouse’s feelings? Did you decide before you ever got started that this issue was unimportant or a waste of time or that your spouse was against you? We have worked with several couples and noticed that the couples that quit in the middle of R – Reconnect with your spouse or say “this isn’t working for us” are not really following the process. They come together having not taken the appropriate time for P – Part Ways – TIME OUT or they sit down and just started talking and yelling instead of following the suggestions and process of R – Reconnect with your spouse. If this sounds like your experience, we would recommend that you start back at the beginning and identify the things you skipped and commit to the full process. Yes, it is work, but your marriage is worth the work. Have you ever struggled in a job or wanted to excel at your job or possibly get promoted? Wouldn’t you work extra or study more if you wanted to get ahead at work? If you are willing to put in the extra for your job shouldn’t you be willing to put in the extra for your marriage? Something to consider: Have you ever heard the saying “Show me where you spend your time and I will show you what’s important to you!” Your marriage is important and needs TLC to survive and thrive! Put the extra time into your marriage and you won’t regret it!
  • “But I am trying and my spouse is not interested in doing P.R.A.Y. with me!!” Unfortunately, this does happen to some couples. There was a time when I was exactly in your shoes. Today, you may not be able to use P.R.A.Y. as we have discussed so far but we do have a modified One-Sided P.R.A.Y. process suggestion for you. Go ahead and finish reading this post. The next post – Part 6 – will be about the One-Sided P.R.A.Y. There is still hope for you and your marriage!! Don’t give up!!

Next we need to move onto step 3 of P.R.A.Y. = A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings. During the R – Reconnect with your spouse process your spouse shared feelings and concerns related to the issue at hand. Look at their stated feelings and concerns (use the 3 F’s from Part 4 to review what they said) and identify at least one thing you can apologize for. This is a very humbling process.

Do I really have to apologize? Is this a necessary step? This is a very important and humbling part of the process. The point of this apology is not to establish blame. The point of this apology is to let our spouse know we have listened to them, we are empathetic to their feelings/situation, and we are sorry for our short-comings and our contributions to the conflict (intentional or not). The reality is our relationship with our spouse is a two-way street and because we are human, we are sinners full of flaws and imperfections. We can always do more and be better. Learning to apologize as part of this process will bring you closer to each other.

Three little words “I AM SORRY” are very powerful and can bring down walls we might have built between us. When you apologize, make it truthful, but find something. “I am sorry for having hurt you,” or “I am sorry for not respecting your feelings,” or “I am sorry for not being more observant?” Or “I am sorry I made assumptions instead of asking” or “I am sorry for what I have done,” etc,

During P – Part Ways – TIME OUT and R – Reconnect with your spouse when you are truly trying to understand your spouse and working to be a Servant Spouse, you will feel compelled to apologize. This will become a more natural step in the process of P.R.A.Y. as you practice it more and more. At first, this may not be so natural. You may need to fight yourself internally to say the words ‘I AM SORRY’ out loud. This takes humility.   I cannot tell you how difficult this was for me. Remember, as I have said over and over again, my natural response to everything has always been that I am right and therefore would not have anything to apologize for. “Being right” all the time, or believing I was J, was not my only problem. Some how I also felt that being right gave me permission to communicate my opinion in whatever manner I wanted to. I could be rough, direct, matter of fact and I did not realize how that came across to my spouse. Looking back I was arrogant and rude and I allowed myself to be that way because I was “right.” Well, that is NO WAY to engage with my spouse, my life partner, and someone I love. I needed to learn to be a listener, to be empathetic, and to share my opinion as an option and not the be all, end all!! All of these changes required a large dose of humility and a significant amount of practice and prayer. These behaviors were learned and now I needed to unlearn them. Another hurdle to implementing these needed changes was my attitude toward apologies. I associated apologies with weakness; so saying the words meant I was weak. I could not have been so wrong. It took me a long time to learn that humility gave me strength and it strengthened my marriage. Ultimately I needed to choose to be strong in my marriage rather than being so self-focused. Early on, when we were learning to go from fighting and yelling to resolving conflict lovingly, I had to ask for a second TIME OUT. When we finished R – Reconnect with your spouse and we were ready to share our apologies I would need to excuse myself from my husband, go into our closet, and practice saying the words “I am sorry”. It was so foreign to me and it took real focused effort to say the words and to be genuine. Over time I learned to apologize more naturally and today it is second nature and very genuine. So I very much understand that you might be fighting this step, but please don’t. If I had not learned these last 2 steps (A – Apologize & Y – “Yes Me”), I am certain our marriage would have failed and it would not have been because my husband was so terrible to me for so long, it would have been that I was unable to improve myself. In the process of improving myself, God changed my husband too. Had my husband gotten better and I had stayed the same, we still would have failed. There is ALWAYS something we individually can do to be more holy and more virtuous, and that is what will save and protect our marriages.

What about forgiveness? When you apologize, be careful not to demand forgiveness. What? Are you kidding? Isn’t forgiveness important? Yes, of course, forgiveness is important but saying “I AM SORRY” and asking for forgiveness does not necessarily mean your spouse is ready to forgive you. Forgiveness, while desired, cannot be expected or demanded. Forgiveness will come when the person having been wronged is ready to forgive. Forgiveness is not a small thing, especially when a spouse has been harmed deeply. Being harmed by your “other half” can cause a human response of division and loss of trust. “You have hurt me and I am not sure how to overcome that hurt.”

Forgiveness is vitally important to a marriage and we are called to forgive but sometimes it is expected to soon. If you spouse is not yet ready to forgive you please do not hold it against them. We have learned that forgiveness is a place a spouse gets to after acceptance of suffering and the understanding of humility. Forgiveness may come sooner and more naturally on a smaller matter. When faced with a severe or large matter or a repetitive matter, forgiveness is not always natural and we need to rely on our relationship with Christ to help us get to the point of forgiveness.

Lets Look at the example of Susan and Paul (A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings):

Susan to Paul – Susan is the Sharing Spouse and Paul is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When I have to do the dishes after dinner by myself)
  • Feeling (I feel alone, like I have been left on the top of a mountain with no map to get home. My loneliness is blue with a magnitude of 6 on a scale of 1-10)
  • Fear (I fear that you do not want to help me and would prefer to leave me to fend for myself)

Paul to Susan – Paul is the Sharing Spouse and Susan is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When you do the dishes after dinner I am appreciative)
  • Feeling (I am tired and the last thing I want to do is tackle dishes)
  • Fear (I fear that helping with the dishes will leave me no time to unwind after work)

In the A –Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings step we would recommend that the person who shared last give the apology first, but ultimately it can be done in what ever order the Holy Spirit calls on you.

Paul’s apology to Susan: “I am sorry I never thought about how lonely it would be having to do the dishes on your own, I never meant to make you feel that way.”

Susan’s apology to Paul: “I am sorry I got so upset. I did not realize how much frustration had been building up in me. I am also sorry for not being sensitive to how tired you are after work and your need to unwind.”

Think about what are you sorry for, what will you ask forgiveness for?

Ok – Now that the apologies have taken place, it is time for Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort. What? Why “YES ME”, why is it me that needs to make the effort? Shouldn’t my spouse have to make an effort? Why do I need to do all the work? Funny, how our human nature wants to take over and look to the other person for change instead of ourselves. Remember, we are looking to strengthen our marriage as a Servant Spouse. This may also take some getting used to.

It is a human reaction to expect the other person to change to accommodate our needs. “After all we would not be fighting if they would just change?” BUT we are called to be selfless. More progress is made in our relationships when we spend time reforming ourselves rather than worrying about the other person’s reform.

Marriage is not 50/50 as much of the world might lead us to believe. It is not about compromise or meeting in the middle. It is about giving and serving. Marriage is 110% on either side. Am I giving my 110% toward my spouse, my marriage, and this issue? How can I do more? Check out our previous post to learn more about how you can give your 110%.

Part 4 of P.R.A.Y., (Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort), is where you look at all you and your spouse have shared in the first 3 parts of P.R.A.Y., and YOU decide what YOU are willing and able to do to help solve the problem/issue. Try to be empathetic to what your spouse shared. Then YOU offer YOUR effort as a service to your spouse. Your spouse will be doing the same thing.

Lets look again at the example of Susan and Paul (Y–Yes Me–Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort):

Ideally, both Paul and Susan have listened to their spouse’s feelings and concerns, apologized to each other, and both spouse’s are looking to see what they can personally do to improve the situation.

Paul’s Y – “Yes Me” to Susan: Paul might say one of these: 1) How about the kids and I help with the dishes after dinner then we can all go downstairs together and relax or 2) How about I help with the dishes on Tuesday and Thursday, those are my less stressful days at work.

  • Example 1: Susan might have preferred Paul’s help (without the kids) but she needs to accept the help that Paul offers unless it is immoral or unsafe. If the kids are really young they can help with the easier things before they are excused from helping.
  • Example 2: Susan might wish for Paul’s help after dinner everyday, but 2 nights a week is what Paul can currently offer.

You might be thinking, can Susan negotiate with Paul on what he is saying he can do? For example in example #2 above can Susan come back with 3 or 4 nights a week, wouldn’t that be more fair? This is another place where we need to change our attitude and approach to solving an issue.   The goal is not to negotiate and to squeeze the most out of our spouse. It is to accept the help that is offered with a joyful attitude. The issue can be revisited at a later point if this continues to be a source of frustration for Susan. But now Susan understands Paul’s side of things and how tired he is when we comes home from work. Susan’s empathy for Paul should lead Susan to want to do the dishes for Paul, just like Paul’s empathy for Susan should lead Paul to want to help as often as he can.

Susan’s Y – “Yes Me” to Paul: I would love your help, that would be great. I will also work on my attitude and how I approach the dishes. If you happen to forget I will ask for your help instead of just letting the frustration build up.

Notice that both Paul and Susan are focused on what THEY individually can do to improve the situation. They both should do this no matter who brought up the issue. Paul’s “Yes Me” should not include what he thinks Susan should do and Susan’s “Yes Me” should not include what she thinks Paul should do. For example: Paul’s “Yes Me” should not be “Can’t you (Susan) wait and do the dishes later in the evening.” or Susan’s “Yes Me” should not be “How about you (Paul) do the dishes 3 nights a week and give me a break” or “I think you (Paul) should help me with the dishes every night.” Notice: these statements from Paul and Susan are not about what they can do but what they think their spouse should do. This is the exact opposite of what is intended by this step Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort.

What if my spouse is not as responsive and his/her “Yes Me” is to do nothing? Sometimes that may happen for various reasons and often for reasons that might not be obvious to us. Be faithful, stay the course. You focus on your “Yes Me” and pray to love your spouse as they are today, even without their “Yes, Me”. Pray that your love will grow for them despite the situation and also pray that whatever weight or burden might be keeping them from offering a “Yes, Me” would be lifted. Remember there might be times when the shoe is on the other foot and you for some reason are not able to offer much of a “Yes, Me”.

What effort do I need to make to work toward resolution on this issue? What is my “Yes Me”?

When is the problem solved?

Once you both have shared with your spouse the answer to “What effort do I need to make to work toward resolution on this issue?” aka “Yes, Me” you have found your first resolution to the issue. It might not be a full resolution but it is a start.

Smaller issues can resolve themselves with one P.R.A.Y. process. We can revisit them at a later date to hold ourselves accountable or to bring further resolution, if needed.

Larger issues may take several attempts at the process of P.R.A.Y., each attempt getting you closer to full resolution. It is not uncommon for spouses to be miles apart on bigger issues. Closing the gap or “great divide” might happen in stages (each process of P.R.A.Y.) rather than one giant leap. Be patient and stay true to the process.

Suggested Action: Now you have 5 blog posts to help guide you in using P.R.A.Y. to resolve conflict in your marriage. 1) review the 2 full P.R.A.Y. examples at the end of this blog and 2) this week, commit to compete the full process of P.R.A.Y. for at least one issue (select a small one).

  • If you have any questions about the process please feel free to submit your question(s) by completing the contact form. If you would like your question(s) to remain private, just type PRIVATE in the subject line and your question will be answered directly instead of being posted on the website.

Suggested Scripture:

Matthew 16:24 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

  • I love this verse for this part of P.R.A.Y. It is in denying ourselves that we will be able to truly see our spouse and be guided by God to find resolution to any issue.

Suggested Prayer by Melissa B:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of my spouse. In the busyness of our lives, I do not always take the time to stop and enjoy this gift that you have given me. Sometimes I get frustrated or impatient with my spouse instead of being loving and empathetic. Help me to love my spouse just as they are instead of trying to change them. Help me to see them as you do. Please soften my heart so that I can be more open to the path that you desire for us. Help me to deny myself and carry my cross so that I can become a more holy person and a Servant Spouse. Please send your holy spirit to guide and encourage us. Amen!”

Suggested Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church – The grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony

CCC 1641

“By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.”147 This grace proper to the Sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.”148

CCC 1642

Christ is the source of this grace. “Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the Sacrament of Matrimony.”149 Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,”150 and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:

  • How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.151

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#1 Example of P.R.A.Y. in action – Susan & Paul

Issue Identified: Susan (wife) observes Paul (husband) and their two children going downstairs after dinner. Susan’s anxiety increases and immediately she finds herself very agitated. Susan tells Paul, “I am frustrated with always having to clean up the dishes after dinner by herself. This is something that bothers me all the time and I really need to talk with you about it.” Paul starts saying “it is your responsibility and after work I am too tired to do the dishes. The dishes are not something I want to do.”

P – Part Ways – TIME OUT. Susan and Paul agree to reconnect at 9pm after the kids go to bed. Before 9pm arrives, both Susan and Paul need to individually find time to take their TIME OUT.

R – Reconnect with your spouse. At 9pm Susan and Paul begin the reconnect process by sitting on the couch together. A quick prayer is said.

Susan to Paul – Susan is the Sharing Spouse and Paul is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When I have to do the dishes after dinner by myself)
  • Feeling (I feel alone, like I have been left on the top of a mountain with no map to get home. My loneliness is blue with a magnitude of 6 on a scale of 1-10)
  • Fear (I fear that you do not want to help me and would prefer to leave me to fend for myself)

Paul to Susan – Paul is the Sharing Spouse and Susan is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When you do the dishes after dinner I am appreciative)
  • Feeling (I am tired and the last thing I want to do is tackle dishes)
  • Fear (I fear that helping with the dishes will leave me no time to unwind after work

A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings.

Paul’s apology to Susan: “I am sorry I never thought about how lonely it would be having to do the dishes on your own, I never meant to make you feel that way.”

Susan’s apology to Paul: “I am sorry I got so upset. I did not realize how much frustration had been building up in me. I am also sorry for not being sensitive to how tired you are after work and your need to unwind.”

Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort.

Paul’s Y – “Yes Me” to Susan: Paul might say one of these: 1) How about the kids and I help with the dishes after dinner then we can all go downstairs together and relax or 2) How about I help with the dishes on Tuesday and Thursday, those are my less stressful days at work.

Susan’s Y – “Yes Me” to Paul: I would love your help, that would be great. I will also work on my attitude and how I approach the dishes. If you happen to forget I will ask for your help instead of just letting the frustration build up.

 

#2 Example of P.R.A.Y. in action – Elaine & David

Issue Identified: David is balancing the checkbook and is frustrated that Elaine is not writing down the checks she writes in the check register. David says to Elaine “I’ve had it. You continue to not write down the checks in the check register. I will be keeping the checkbook and you will have to ask me to write a check whenever you need money.” Elaine retaliates back “Fine, you can also do the grocery shopping” as she storms off. Someone needs to call a TIME OUT!!!

  • Eventually once David and Elaine get good at identifying conflict, David can calmly say “Elaine, I am continuing to struggle with how we are recording our expenses, can we please talk about it after the boys lay down for be?”

P – Part Ways – TIME OUT. Elaine & David agree to reconnect at 9pm after the kids go to bed. Before 9pm arrives, both Elaine & David need to individually find time to take their TIME OUT.

R – Reconnect with your spouse. At 9pm Elaine & David begin the reconnect process by sitting on the couch together. A quick prayer is said.

David to Elaine – David is the Sharing Spouse and Elaine is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When you forget to write down a check in the check register)
  • Feeling (I feel unappreciated for all the work I do to make sure that ends meet every month. My feeling of being unappreciated is an 8 on a scale of 1-10. It feels like I spent the entire day organizing the kitchen cabinets just to have you come in and throw everything on the floor.)
  • Fear (I fear that we will overdraft the bank account and destroy our good credit.)

Elaine to David – Elaine is the Sharing Spouse and David is the Listening Spouse

  • Fact (When I write a check I am usually in a hurry)
  • Feeling (I feel overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities of work and the kids. My feeling of being overwhelmed on a scale of 1-10 is a 6 and it feels like I am carrying this huge weight that I will never be able to lift)
  • Fear (I fear that I will always disappoint you no matter what I remember to do).

A – Apologize for hurt feelings or wrong doings.

Elaine’s apology to David: “I am sorry I never remember to write down the checks in the check register. I never meant to make you feel unappreciated.”

David’s apology to Elaine: “I am sorry I threatened to keep the checkbook from you. I could have handled that differently.”

Y – Yes Me – Yes, it is me that needs to make an effort.

Elaine’s Y – “Yes Me” to David: “Realistically I just do not think I will remember to write down all of the checks I write. Do you think we could get duplicate checks, so that when I don’t remember you still have the information you need”

David’s Y – “Yes Me” to Elaine: “I could also get the information from the website instead of relying on the check register as the only source of information”

  • This is an example where either Yes Me would probably solve the problem. Since the issue was brought up by David, David should decide if they should do both Yes Me’s or if just one of them will work.

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