“We do things differently,” Bob said. “You have your way of doing it and I have mine.”
There was nothing adversarial in his words or in his tone. Yet, I could hear my brain translating the message: “We do things differently. My way is right. And your way is wrong.”
I attended a class on mediating disputes. It included the topic of “priming”— as in “priming a pump.” Priming means that prior experiences you bring into a conversation can significantly determine how you view the conversation. In one experiment, people were shown pictures of a shower, a towel, and shampoo bottles and asked to fill in the missing letter in the word “SO_P.” One hundred percent filled in an “A” for “soap.” When shown pictures of foods, they filled in a “U” and made it “SOUP.” You can be primed by experiences that are recent or experiences that happened a long time ago.
How does priming apply to marriage?
In my case, my conversation with Bob was similar to so many conversations with my father. But when my dad said I did something differently than he did, it definitely meant my way was wrong and his comment always hurt. I was taking what I knew to be true in the situation with my father and applying it to Bob. My dad had primed the pump and poor Bob had to deal with it.
So, how do you deal with the priming that leads to misunderstandings between you and your spouse?
- Realize that what you believe may not be true. What was true earlier in your life may not be true now. Even though it was true for one person, it is not true for everybody. Ask God to show you the truth and to free you from wrong beliefs.
- I believe God wants to heal our tender places. We need to ask Him to heal them. Follow the example of the persistent widow in Luke 18. Keep seeking; keep knocking; keep asking. Pray until God gives you freedom.
- No matter how many times Bob says he’s not insisting his way is right, I still have a hard time believing it. But Bob is different than my father. I need to consciously treat him as the person he is. Ask God to show you your spouse’s intention and his heart.
What primes your pump for misunderstanding with your spouse?
What problems does that cause?
How can you get freedom from wrong presuppositions?
How can you rescue your poor spouse from your wrong thinking?
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This article was originally published on The Marriage Dance blog on October 14, 2015.