How to Fight (Part 1 of 3): The Green Zone
Ever had something that you needed to tell your spouse but you know that if you do, it is pretty much a 100% chance that an argument is going to break out? How do you fight fair? How do you get to the root of the issue without having an all out brawl? What do you do when there is clearly a misunderstanding but it is a sensitive subject that you know is going to bring up some emotions and a potentially heated argument? You enter into what my wife and I call “the green zone.”
The green zone is a saying we use for when we are about to bring up an emotional, tension-filled comment that has a high probability of being misinterpreted and leading straight into a fight. Here are the steps to getting to the green zone and then what to do once you get there:
Step 1: Pray and Expiate. If Tracy (my wife) did something that offended me, the first thing I do is try to expiate that comment or action (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the post “Take It Like a Man: the Art of Expiation”). Usually after I pray through something that offended me, more often than not the Lord shows me that the reason I am upset is more because of my pride and selfishness than anything else. This is always a good way to end a potential argument; before it begins.
Step 2: 24 Hour Holding Period. If it is something that I try praying through and I still have angst, hurt, or concern about the comment or situation, my next step is to WAIT 24 hours before I bring it up. Why so long you may ask? Because a lot of times, I need multiple prayer sessions and time to cool down to make sure I am not approaching my wife while I am in an emotionally fragile or wounded place. Arguing when you are emotionally upset is just plain foolish. No one wins in that situation. You both say things you wish you hadn’t and the situation ends up being worse than before. The 24 hour wait ensures that your temper and emotions are level and it gives Jesus a shot to show you if the problem is really you or the way you interpreted what your spouse said.
Step 3: Entering the Green Zone. If it can’t be expiated and after 24 hours you still feel like you need to talk it out, then now it is time to enter the green zone. The green zone is aptly named because it is a place that is safe to communicate without fear of retaliation and/or arguing. The way it works is that if your spouse comes to you and says, “Hey, we need to talk. Green zone”, then that is your cue that they are trying to say something to you in love without arguing. Respect that. So when your spouse pulls that card, you have to collect yourself, probably sit down, and just listen. That’s it. Listen to what they say. Part of the rules of engagement is that you are not allowed to talk back, defend yourself, or attack. You have to receive and simply take it.
Even if you think they are wrong. You are only allowed to listen.
Here’s why: This gives your spouse a safe place to not attack you, but to express how they feel (more on how to make this non-attacking in part 3 of this series). By not allowing yourself to fight back, you keep it from escalating in the emotional moment. Tracy and I simply say if we are at the receiving end, “Thanks for letting me know. I will work on that.” And that’s it.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 & 2. From here, if you are on the receiving end of a green zone talk, it is now your turn take that to prayer, ask the Lord to show you what you need to work on, and expiate the things that can be expiated. Most of the time, the problem gets solved before the argument occurs because both spouses are trying to work on themselves. But if there is still unresolved issues, then repeat the green zone process. If you get to a third green zone attempt, then it is time to enter into a conversation with one another.
The beauty is that by the time you have that conversation, you already have at least two days of prayerful contemplation of how you can improve the situation by improving yourself. And hopefully by this time, you already know what you need to do.