What Can We Learn From Marriage And Golf?
I came across an amazing blog post that caught my eye. Normally, when I see the title of an article, I’m most likely to click it if the title lets me know that the information I will be reading is applicable and of interest to my life. However, this article title was something so not applicable to my personal life, nor is of interest to me: Mastering Marriage Conflicts with Mulligans. Now I’m no golf connoisseur, but I do know what a Mulligan is. And although I’m no golf connoisseur, my husband happens to be, which is why I know the term (he’s a self-proclaimed golf connoisseur). So at first, you can imagine I was intrigued by the initial “mastering marriage conflicts”, but then “with Mulligans” suddenly rained on my parade. I thought that I would not understand anything the article was about to tell me, nor would I understand any examples the article might try to explain – because even the concept of a Mulligan slightly confuses me (Can you call it all the time? Is it just once a game? Does your street/golf-cred go down the more you call it?)
But seriously, I was about to continue right past that article in fear of what I would be trying to comprehend. Then I stopped and thought, maybe this is a good thing. So many times in my life, I run into miscommunications. I miscommunicate with someone. Someone miscommunicates with me. My husband and I start with a conversation and then one person miscommunicates their thoughts, next thing you know we’re arguing. We don’t mean to miscommunicate, it’s just that there are 100 ways to somewhat say the same thing – and it all depends on our tone, the words we choose, and how we say it.
I thought to myself, maybe it’s a good thing to read a marriage article about mulligans. There is not one way or a right way to communicate. I wanted to read the article to try to grow my understanding of communication. Just because a topic is non-relatable, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t indulge. Opening ourselves up to topics, subjects, and articles that we know we won’t be able to relate to initially, can actually help us to think differently, and to realize that there is someone out there that can 100% relate to those topics, subjects or articles. If I can fully understand the relationship between marriage conflicts and mulligans, I’ll probably be able to relate to my husband more when it comes to marriage conflicts – because I’m speaking his language.
So onto the article! Now let me share with you what I got from marriage conflicts and Mulligans! So, in my terms, without looking up the official definition, a Mulligan is like a do-over. And you can imagine – a do-over in the midst of a heated argument – that’s exactly something I would wish for. There’s no rewind buttons in life, but there is an idea of a do-over. How does it work?
Imagine this. I’m cleaning dishes in the sink. I’ve had a bad day, so I’m feeling extra frustrated. So I say to my husband, “You know you never do the dishes.” There is no nice way to say that statement. And what is my intention for saying that? Am I trying to start an argument? Because we all know that no one would respond nicely to that criticism. And just like that – conflict. But wouldn’t it be nice, after I realize that what I just said is going to spark a fight, if I could say, “Actually, I’m sorry, I just started our conversation with a “harsh start up.” The article says, “ A harsh start-up occurs when a discussion begins with criticism or contempt.” By definition, criticism is “the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.” Additionally, contempt is described as, “the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.”
This scenario happens a lot more that I’d like to admit. Does this mean my husband and I don’t like each other? No, I don’t think so. I love my husband, but we communicate differently, and the better we know how to communicate with/to each other, the less we should be running into harsh set-ups. It’s especially hard if we don’t even know we’re doing it- like it’s habitual. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways; we stick to our schedules; we pay more attention to kids or pets (don’t forget about us dog parents!) and we just forget that it’s important to spend time on minute things like this. Looking at the bigger picture, the better I know how to communicate with my husband, the easier my future will be in terms of communication and things related to expressing ourselves… hopefully!
After I criticized my husband for never washing dishes, he responded with, “Yes, I do! I did yesterday, and last week. You forgot to do them last night!” According to the article, “Criticism and the sarcastic remarks that imply contempt trigger a chain reaction that often leads to a bitter end. A common reaction to a harsh start-up is to become defensive or stonewall. Together, these four reactions to conflict represent what Dr. Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When one or more of the horsemen are on the field, couples become locked in fierce battles that drive the relationship toward catastrophe.”
This is why it’s important to own up to the part you played in the conflict. It’s important to realize responsibility falls on multiple parties; it’s not always just one person’s responsibility in a fight. I know it’s really, really hard to admit, but just TRY to think about what portion of an argument or fight was your responsibility – and own it. Whether you are the individual starting the harsh set-up, or you are the individual responding with defensiveness, you are continuing the argument- even though you know its wrong and not healthy. Either person, no matter where you are in the conflict or who started it, both parties are responsible to stop it.
In conclusion, I am unsure if my husband and I will call our do-over a mulligan. But what I do know is that I am a responsible party in communication between two people, and when I know something is going sour, I should end it. And even more importantly, if I’m the person who created the harsh set-up, I should acknowledge it – so I can hear myself admit it aloud and know it’s probably something I need to work on, but to also provide my partner with some closure in knowing I understand what happened. I know it’s all easier said than done. But for me at least, the first step is acknowledging the moving parts to communication and an argument. From there, it gets much simpler to identify the factors. Give it a try, you might be surprised!