Marriage And The Freeze. Fight. &. Flight. Responses.
Happy Wednesday Pilgrims!! I pray this post finds you well. It has been six weeks since my last post. I stepped away from the blog for a time in order to focus on all the adjustments that needed to be made from transitions at work to just focusing on being married. It's be a LONG while but I believe it was indeed a very needed and necessary break.
In other news -
Danny and I have been married for 4 months!
It's been more of a blessing than we could have ever imagined, and also more of a challenge than we could have ever prepared for. But we're doing it.
Marriage is certainly not for the faint in heart.
Marriage and the Freeze. Fight. or. Flight. Responses
The acute stress response in physiology is described as a physiological reaction to a stressor that is perceived as a harmful attack or threat to survival.
People normally respond in one of three ways - Freeze. Fight. or. Flight.
Freeze – To freeze is to do nothing. Essentially you believe the situation is hopeless and there's Nothing you Can do.
Fight – To fight is to oppose or come against the threat
Flight – To flee the environment in which the threat exists.
But what happens when the “perceived threat” is in your marriage?
Are Freeze. Fight. And/Or Flight? The correct responses then?
First we need to understand where these perceived threats in marriage come from -
“Fights” are common in marriage; more common than people might care to admit. You may think I’m referring to quarrels and arguments between a husband and wife but I’m not.
“Fights” is the general term I use for the conflict and opposition that can arise in a marriage and consequently against the marriage.
Three different types of conflict and opposition that can be found in a marriage:
MARITAL CONFLICT – In premarital we were taught to think of conflict between husband and wife as gifts (a surprise that brings with it an opportunity for growth).
Our friends, Marcus and LaWanda say they do not have fights or disagreements, they have “intense fellowships,” lol I love the idea.
However you choose to refer to conflicts in marriage, the fact remains they exist.
From my marriage experience so far I can honestly say that no conflict between husband and wife stems from a simple explanation such as the examples below:
I married the wrong person.
At my core I cannot stand this one thing about my spouse.
My spouse hates me.
We are not happy or good together.
Marital conflict usually stems from one of three things and usually it’s some combination of the three – miscommunication, internal conflict, and external opposition.
Also, how an existing marital conflict is handled can also directly affect the handling of a future conflict. If conflict is not thoroughly addressed and dealt with it can easily blossom into bitterness or resentment and explode the next time it resurfaces.
INTERNAL CONFLICT – Internal conflict refers to some internal struggle within one of the two individuals in the marriage.
Sometimes the actions of the conflicted person will indicate that something is wrong, for example he or she may become reclusive.
But our spouse cannot know what internal battles we are facing unless we share it with them, which we should.
How internal conflict can lead to marital conflict– If we are dealing with something internally that causes a change in our behavior our spouse may think the change in behavior is directed towards them or something they did. Or if in an attempt to understand a change in your behavior they ask, "What’s wrong?" and you reply with “nothing,” when clearly something is awry this presents another problem.
The solution – For those of us who struggle with internal conflict and have difficulty sharing with our spouse, we must consider the role of pride and how it can potentially destroy our marriage. Are we willing to lay down our “rights” to our own thoughts and feelings in order to promote the well-being of our marriage?
Some of us more than others may have difficulty articulating emotions but we must try. In marriage we do not have to deal with these internal struggles on our own we have a life partner and teammate who can help us deal with those internal issues.
Giving up those self-preservation or self-sufficient habits we have formed over the years can sometimes be challenging but they are necessary to promote a healthy marriage.
EXTERNAL CONFLICT – Opposition, usually in the form of situations or circumstances, that stems from outside of the marriage.
Examples of external conflicts include: prolonged stress at work, the loss of a loved one, unexpected expenses, job loss, unexpected sickness, accidents, etc.
A husband and wife can still be on the same page regarding these different situations and still experience different emotional responses that may profoundly affect them individually, leading to marital conflict.
MISCOMMUNICATION – One person does or says something that the other person misinterprets which leads to marital conflict.
In order to correctly respond to a perceived threat in marriage we have to have an understanding of these four truths –
- My spouse is not the problem. The problem is the problem.
- My marriage is not the problem. The problem is the problem.
- The issue is the problem and the problem is separate from my spouse and my marriage.
- My spouse is my teammate and life partner, not my enemy.
The Physiologically Programmed
The Correct Response
FREEZE. When faced with conflict Danny and I have learned that rather than freezing up and doing nothing about the perceived threat we need to confront it head on.
Instead of freezing your actions you may freeze activities.
Practically speaking, that can look like declining invitations to entertain or be entertained. Turning off the TV to spend quality time doing other activities.
FIGHT. Of all three responses to conflict and perceived threats fighting is actually the best option, but not fighting each other.
When you have an understanding of the four truths mentioned above you can come together as husband and wife, as best friends, as teammates and partners to fight against or resist whatever the real problem or underlying issue is.
FLIGHT. The flight response tells us to remove ourselves from the environment in order to avoid the threat. But running out on your spouse, running away from your marriage is not an option. Whatever the conflict we must train ourselves to run to our spouses so that the problem can be addressed and not avoided.
One thing Danny and I have been learning to be intentional about in these last couple months is doing whatever it takes on our respective ends to ensure that we are not only putting our marriage first but that we are protecting it as well.
It has required courage, communication and commitment.
But amidst all the conflict, yes there has been conflict, we have done more than survived -
We have learned. We have grown. And we have used it to thrive.
Lasting marriages and unconditional love do exist.
Sending you pilgrims thoughts of love & light,