I like conflict. I really do. I didn’t used to, but I do now. I also like anger. I didn’t used to like that either, but I do now. Yes it’s true; my road to recovery and redemption has turned me into a fighting, angry woman. Just kidding. But it is true that ”inviting conflict” and ”accepting anger” have transformed me. Instead of a fighting, angry woman, I have slowly become a deeply trusting, emotionally present woman who loves well as often as I’m able – on my good days of course.
I grew up in a family where loud fighting was part of everyday life. My parents had a very contentious marriage until they divorced when I was eight. Then my grandmother often stayed with us. She never shied away from making her view point well known, which became louder and often turned from English to Polish after a few martinis. I could have learned to be a fighter at that point, but instead I learned how to be left alone, fly under the radar and avoid conflict as much as possible.
Then, I got married…
Our few first years of marriage went along fairly smoothly. I continued my way of keeping everything to myself and required little of my husband. I rarely got angry. Until, something came into our marriage that I could no longer ignore, and when it impacted our finances, it’s like a ‘fighting switch’ got turned on. All of a sudden, I was able to raise my voice, walk out dramatically, and even scheme on ways to “prove” my point when he wasn’t around like burning his shirt with the iron (maybe not by accident). Now, we were having conflict. It was a stage we probably needed to go through, but we needed to fight differently to actually solve anything. And more importantly, we needed to fight differently to build intimacy with each other.
I now have the privilege of sitting with couples in their hardest moments, and walking with them toward deeper relationships. I always encourage them to fight. However, I encourage them to fight for their marriage, fight for each other and to do it in a way that loves the other well. The way a couple resolves their arguments has the capacity to build great intimacy.
Our marriage therapist looked at me one day and said, “What if you went into a disagreement assuming Skott was not your enemy and that he loved you?” What?! Not assume that my husband is my enemy? It sounds so easy, but as soon as the anger rose, I would immediately vilify my husband pull out all of the weapons to protect myself, and maybe even cause a little damage in return. It felt like dying to lay down my weapons. I had to trust that God was with me, and that I was being called to life. It wasn’t just a leap of faith, it was a jump-out-of-an-airplane kind of leap of faith.
The first time I was able to stop myself and give Skott the benefit of the doubt – our fight changed in that instant. I could listen to what he wanted me to know. I could respond with my own vulnerable feelings without my shield of anger. Then, the craziest thing happened…He heard me and responded to my hurt feelings. After I felt heard and cared for, I started to trust his motives and take responsibility for the ways in which I hurt him.
If he could hear me, I decided I could hear him. I started to trust him more as I was able to see how he cared for me even in our darkest moments. That trust pulled us closer than I could ever imagine. Believe me, we still have disagreements. But paradoxically – because of all of the healthy arguments we’ve had, we have fewer arguments now. However, when we need to, we know how to have a good fight! And I am so thankful for that.
Tiffany Shores joined the Barnabas Center in August 2012 as a resident counselor. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from George Mason University and her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Tiffany’s experience ranges from grief and depression to marital concerns and relational brokenness. She is passionate about helping people become free from whatever is holding them back and follow where God leads them. Tiffany is married to Skott and they have two boys who keep her busy and teach her new things every day.