Most people would say fighting is normal in a marriage. But is that true? Is it really how it should be? In this episode, Travis Gentry and Julia Gentry let us in on their intense fellowship. They share how communicating what’s important and owning up to your shame allows you to be transparent, work through your differences, know each other better, and be better together. They say it’s normal for two people with different opinions to clash and argue and, to some extent, get into a heated argument and there’s a way to do it differently. Tune in to this insightful conversation and learn how you can fight differently in marriage.
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Intense Fellowship – How To Fight Differently In Marriage
This is a great day because we were talking about fighting.
It’s what we call intense fellowship.
What is that?
That’s how we describe when we disagree on something or when our child comes out of us in a fit of anger.
That’s not me.
We don’t know how to process it. We take it out on typically the ones you love the most.
It would be each other or your kids.
They have nothing to do with it. It’s your thing.
We’re going to talk about your thing.
Steal it. Use it. It’s intense fellowship. We don’t argue. We don’t fight. We have intense fellowship, but we’ve learned to not do it better, but how to do it differently.
I won’t toot your horn too often because you guys know, on this show, Travis and I keep it real. If there’s one area that you and I have done well, it is in our marriage. Wherever you’re at in your marriage, maybe in your relationship with your kids or anyone who you might be “fighting” with at any given time, we want to open up our lives and share how we view our communication with each other and tackled this issue.
As you start to dream with the people that matter most, I wish that I could tell you it’s beautiful. It’s sometimes clunky, hard, and scary. You have two different people tackling the same thing in very different ways that can escalate and get out of hand. We wanted to give you a front-row seat into how we have learned to do this differently.As you start to dream with the people that matter most, it's beautiful but sometimes clunky, hard, and scary. Click To Tweet
The process and the journey of intense fellowship have been years in the making and how we have created and done it differently. I want to start out with the foundation. Looking back on how you see your mom and dad argue, yell, scream, or how they communicate when they’re in a disagreement, or if you grew up with just a single parent, you still saw them frustrated or angry. Sometimes it came out to you. That’s a big part of this whole process because you internalize. You’re watching your parents, loved ones, grandparents, or whomever you grew up with or around, and you saw how they communicated and you tend to model that.
It becomes normal. If you grew up in a family that would fight all the time, fighting seems normal. If they would yell all the time, you come to find out that yelling seems normal. It is not that we want to say that these people are in the wrong. You have to be a firm believer that says everybody is doing the best that they can. We are not trying to put them on blast. A lot of times we normalize it. I talk to so many people that are like, “My parents did it. It’s what I saw. It’s what I’m accustomed to. It’s what I’m used to. It’s how the only way I was heard.” It was something that we saw modeled to us that became normal.
You can go down culturally. There are certain cultures or parts of the country or the world, like your immediate environment that do that differently. You’ve got different layers, and then your friends. How did you argue or see people interact? Most of the time, they did not do how we communicate because you wouldn’t go to your friend and say, “Here’s how it makes me feel.”
We’re going to walk through the process, but how I grew up and what I saw in my interpretation and going into marriage, we didn’t talk about that. We didn’t talk about, “Here’s how we’re going to argue. Here’s how we’re going to fight. When I get frustrated, you do this. When you get mad or whatever, you do this. When you do that, then I’ll do this.” No one talks about that.
Nobody sits down and goes, “Here’s how we’re going to fight.” It’s a part of marriage and life. You hit a moment of, “If we’re going to disagree.” It’s, “When we’re going to disagree.” We’ve created no roadmap for success on how to do it well. Hopefully, now you walk away with a little roadmap that you can rinse and repeat.Nobody sits down and says, 'Here's how we're going to fight,' but it's a part of marriage. It's a part of life. Click To Tweet
Start to practice these. You look at why people get divorced. There are a few reasons behind that. One is money. You typically argue about money or sex or don’t talk about it, which leads to disconnect and resentment. What else would you say that people argue?
It’s truly a lack of communication. I’ve spoken with many people, friends and clients included that are like, “We don’t know how to communicate.” You’re like, “Good.”
Now you’ve identified the problem.
“I’d like to invite you to the opportunity to use your words.” That’s what we’re going to do. This is going to be as simple as learning to invite the other person on the other side of the table into what’s going on in your head and your heart. This will be clunky the first time you do it, but if I don’t use my words and share with Travis where I’m at, what I’m feeling, and what I’m experiencing, for him to put the boxing glove down and realize this is less to do with him, more to do with me and vice versa, then we’re both punching in the dark.
A guy’s perspective is wild at heart, bringing a man and a woman together, and the natural instincts that are in us, feeling wild and free and wanting to do things. When you get married, you can feel prohibited because everything changes. It’s not just you doing what you want to do. From my perspective, I want to talk about that a little bit too, and how you interpret and internalize that.
When I would get frustrated at myself because I didn’t use the words to communicate to you, “I’m feeling this way. I need to go camping for a couple of days by myself,” or go do something that I feel called to do as opposed to being resentful of like, “I can’t. We have kids or you won’t let me,” instead of using your words and breaking it down of like, “I’m feeling anxious, frustrated, angry, or whatever it is.”
There’s a misnomer that says that a man doesn’t have emotions. That’s not true. I know a lot of men that have emotions. It’s putting words to your emotions. There’s a level of learning to take responsibility. It’s not a man or a woman having emotions. We all have emotions and it’s going to be this consciousness and mindfulness to put a word to it, “I feel angry. I feel anxious.” Put a word to it. That’s going to take a huge pressure off of the conversation.We all have emotions, but it takes consciousness and mindfulness to put a word to them, and that will take huge pressure off the conversation. Click To Tweet
Let’s outline. Do we want to talk a little bit about our interpretation or come together as to what that looked like?
The starting point for everybody is if you can remember a first moment or instance when the fight didn’t go well, and then you can connect it with your upbringing, that will help. The first fight that I remember in my mind, I remember getting ready to leave. I was going to walk out the door. I wasn’t going to emotionally leave and break up, but I was physically getting ready to leave the house.
I will never forget this. Travis looks at me and he says, “If you walk out that door, don’t come back.” I knew you meant it. Thank God I didn’t because there could have been a little bit of that manipulative like, “Come chase me,” or whatever it is that I was thinking. There was something deep in me that was like, “Don’t exit.”
I remember that conversation too. It was in Milwaukee. It is when we were dating.
You looked at me and said, “Don’t leave or don’t come back.” I didn’t leave. I remember feeling so much shame. I come to find out that one of the biggest hindrances to doing this well with you was my own shame, which we’ll talk about now. I remember the feeling of shame in my body. It almost gives me goosebumps thinking about it. It felt overwhelming. Looking back, connecting the dots, I remember my parents got divorced.
I’m not saying that they didn’t fight. I don’t know. I don’t remember. What it felt like is you leave when things get hard. You exit. What my wiring was, “Just leave. Maybe it’ll just go away or disappear.” What I didn’t know was step two. Step 1 was to leave. You helped me with that with one statement, “Leave and never come back.” Step 2, which was five years later that I had to deal with it was the feeling of shame of looking at you and whatever we were going to discuss. The overwhelming feeling of shame was debilitating. That’s what I saw. That was my starting point.
There are probably a couple that comes to me. One is slowly outburst. Not communicating is what it is. Pushing things to the side, “I don’t care that much,” and then I really care. In the midst of that, I’m looking for a response. We’ve talked about this multiple times. I was looking for a response and until I got that response, I wouldn’t back down. I needed to see her emotionally break down a little bit then I felt like, “Now she hears me.”
The interesting thing for anyone who’s dealt with shame is that you don’t want to show your cards. Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes. The first step into how you communicate better together and how to do intense fellowship well is that there are many layers that are going on behind the scenes that you didn’t even know about. Here I am feeling so much shame. I am stoic. Show no emotion and pretend that nothing bothers me.
Here’s Travis, ready to bulldoze and get some reaction, a tear, a sorry, or anything. He’s coming at me. Inside, I have all of the emotions, but outside my shame is like a wall that he’s tackling. That’s all going on behind the scenes. Until he erodes all of it and not in a good way then I was bused. This was years ago. Both of us are completely toppled over in frustration and anger. Looking back, that’s interesting to document.
The other thing I would say is transparency. Mean what you say. Say what you mean. It’s black and white. It’s not gray. We used to get into a confrontation about things. I ask you questions and you would say, “Give me a vague number.” I’m like, “Is it 1 or 4? It’s not 2 or 3. Give me the facts.” I don’t know necessarily where I pick that up, growing up or why that means so much to me, but it does. Tell me what it is. I would rather it be not what I want and then we can deal with it. That’s been the foundation of our marriage. It’s truth and honesty.
In my defense, there were a couple of little small white lies that I do remember that I will own. One was even over the cheese I put in your lasagna.
That was the breaking point of like, “It does matter.”
Here’s what was attached to even my small white lies. It was a shame. I was afraid to own it that I felt like, “If I tell you a different kind of cheese,” it was a shame. There was such a good point there. I come to find that shame will make us do a lot of crazy things. Over the years, what I started to realize is that you are an internal processor. I’m a verbal processor. I used to have to communicate this to Travis. What would start to happen, the minute that anything came out of Travis’ mouth, it was fact because he had been processing whatever he was going to say in his head for hours, days, or weeks.Shame will make us do a lot of really crazy things. Click To Tweet
Generally, what comes out of Travis’s mouth is very matter-of-fact and short. You’ll even notice it on this show. It is what it is. I’m a verbal processor, which means sometimes the things that come out of my mouth aren’t always true because I’m processing. Where I would catch is that you would say things like, “That’s not what you said in our last conversation.”
In my head, I’m like, “I changed my mind. I feel differently. It looks different. I didn’t know.” I had to take ownership of the fact that, “What am I about to say? I don’t know if it’s true. I’m verbally processing with you right now.” That was a huge game-changer because your experience with whatever comes out of the mouth is a fact because that’s your approach. For me, whatever comes out of my mouth is processing because I’m not thinking about anything before it comes out of my mouth.
As we’ve learned that truth, transparency, and more facts are important to me and she’s a verbal processor and likes to talk it out sometimes and it’s not necessarily black and white. Understand that and where it’s important. This is specifically for guys. Sometimes what I’ve seen in relationships is that a guy thinks, “Whatever I want and how I think it should be is how it is.” That’s wrong. You have to look at both sides. Robert Kiyosaki talks about it. There are three sides to a coin, the heads, tails, and center. In life, it would do you justice if you stand in the middle and always get perspective from both sides not saying to go to the other side, but get thoughts, opinions, and ideas.In life, it will do you justice if you stand in the middle and always get perspective from both sides. Click To Tweet
When we do have conversations, now I know she’s a verbal processor and she knows I want the truth. She’ll even say when we’re talking, “I need to process this out.” I can say, Okay.” I don’t take what she’s saying as fact. I don’t hold it. When she doesn’t say that, I am going to take it more as fact or like, “This is the truth. Not tomorrow or next week is going to be a new truth. It’s going to be different and blindside me,” because we already talked about it. I thought we already came up with what it is.
The thing that you do well that I would encourage, male and female, is you’ve honored me with however I’m feeling. Whatever I’m processing or feeling, there was a huge shift in you. Once it was communicated that I struggle with shame, “Here’s what it does in my body. Here’s what it makes me do,” it wasn’t until then that I remember you almost holding whatever I’m saying as though you were holding my heart.
I know that that does sound cheesy until you’re realizing that like, “I’m doing life with someone who has all the feels, a story, interpretations, and insecurities, but I’m holding your heart.” Even though there are times that I can tell that logically, you’re like, “You’re wrong. That makes no sense,” I can tell that you get through the emotion. You always approach me with, “I hear you.”
The biggest thing is learning to be able to say to each other, “I hear you.” Sometimes even in my processing or even when I think that I’m “right,” I don’t want to be right. I want to be heard. Even for our kids, we say this all the time, “I’m thirsty.” “I don’t have any water right now, but I hear your desire for water. I just don’t have any in the car right now.” That’s huge. It’s the ability to honor the other person.
As a believer and a husband leading the family, there’s a difference between leadership and dictatorship. Being a leader of the house is not saying, “It’s my way.” It’s saying, “I hear you.” Will I always go with exactly what you’re saying? No, because I may have this feeling or intuition of like, “That’s not the right decision. We shouldn’t do that because of,” and explain to you so then we can have a conversation about it as opposed to saying, “No, we can’t do that. You can’t do that.”
I can feel my tone and a kid’s tone when we use the phrase, “I hear you.” It doesn’t always mean that I’m going to get the exact answer to your point, but it’s like, “I wanted to be heard.”
It evolved. In the early ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, or ‘60s, it was the man who went and worked. The woman stayed home and took care of the house. That’s evolved and changed. In most households, the husband and wife, both spouses work. It’s the transparency and the conversation of like, “Here are my roles and responsibility if you work. If you don’t work, here are my roles and responsibilities. Here are your roles and responsibilities to make sure that we’re on the same page. I don’t need to know everything that you’re doing, I just need to know that they’re getting done and vice versa.”
We have certain things in our marriage on how we do things, financially, food-wise, with kids, and school where Julia takes certain aspects and makes sure that they’re done. We talk about it, so I understand it. If I want to understand or know more, then I ask clarifying questions. I say, “I want to be a part of that conversation to that meeting and vice versa.” It’s going to go back to communication.
I was talking with a couple who were talking about the same thing from different angles. They both didn’t feel appreciated by the other person. The next layer is if we’re not careful as a couple, especially if you’re raising kids and doing all the things, and this will be my heartfelt check-in here on this show, is you make these things look easy and they’re not easy. The way that you manage our finances, running your business, and handling all of the things and that you’re with the kids and the way that you’ve held our family with this new baby and all of those things, you make it look easy.
Sometimes it takes me as your wife going, “I see you. I appreciate what you’re doing,” because otherwise, we get into this, “He doesn’t do the groceries. He doesn’t help me with the kids.” It’s easy to start spinning in all of this as opposed to just going, “Have I stopped to even just appreciate what you’re doing even though it’s ‘yours’ to do or your lane? Just because it’s your lane or you make it look easy doesn’t mean it is.” Another real slippery slope is that we’re just not checking in to say, “I love you. I appreciate you and you make this look easy, but I can’t imagine that it’s easy.”
One of the biggest things for me is to show appreciation. I talk about it more so with the kids of like, “I will give you the world. I want to know that you appreciate it and you see what we’re doing because a lot of these things that you have, you’ve had. You never not had.”
“How am I supposed to be appreciative of that?”
It’s normal for you.
As we’re walking out of the gym with Malachi, he says thanks to the instructor. I looked down at him and I’m like, “And? You wouldn’t be able to say thanks to him if I didn’t bring you here. You’re welcome. I got you here.”
Train the kids in the way that they will go and they will not depart from it. Put it this way.
Just a little bit. Not every single time.
One of the other things I’d love to dive into because you have upped my level in this. We’ve had this unspoken mantra of the two words that I think of with our marriage, connection and passion. I remember the day that you told me not to leave. I turned and about-faced. I looked at you and I realized that the goal of our relationship is connection. That’s what allows us to fight well. What I rehearse in my head, even though there are times that I still admit I feel shame when we’re talking, I let you down, I disappoint you, I’m frustrated, mad, or whatever it is. I can feel all those things in my body.
I have committed to a marriage that is going to fight for connection. I will fight with you. For most of us, it’s emotional. I turn my back on you, I just say whatever is on my mind, I disconnect mentally or emotionally, or I’m shooting off words that are going to hurt you to prove a point. For both of us, we have this internal vow and commitment that says, “This is for connection. When I’m done with this conversation, I will know Travis better.”
This is what I’m saying in my head, “I will know his pain and fears better. I will know what he doesn’t like that I’m doing better. I will know him better.” It doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. It doesn’t mean that I still take it all in and I’m like, “This is the best thing and the most awesome conversation,” but I’m committed to when that conversation is done, I will know me, you, and us better. It’s helped me to be careful of what I say, own what I say, use my words, and check my emotions. It’s my grid. What has helped a ton is to have some mantra or point of commitment of, “I will fight for connection here as opposed to fighting to be right.”
One of the things, and we’ve said it multiple times when we’re having conversations with other couples, but we’ve established the foundation as like friendship. We’re good friends. We work together. We do all the things together. What I would say that you have done well is not go outside of our marriage to seek counsel, especially from other friends or women. What I’ve seen over the years with people is that they go outside of their marriage. There’s a time and a place for it, but the majority of the time if there’s communication, there is no need to go outside of the marriage.
What you’re talking about is not you’re going to a counselor or a therapist, you’re going to friends, Instagram, or Facebook.
Your mom or someone outside. If you need counseling, seek counseling. I’m talking about your best friend. You go to your best friend to get their thoughts and opinions on your marriage when you haven’t even brought it to the table so we can talk about it. What I’ve also seen that do is disconnect family members. If you go to your best friend or if you had a sister, your mom, or whoever and you throw up on them verbally about me, then we come, fix it, and it’s good they now have this judgment on the spouse. That works both ways. Guys too.
Even though they would love to say, “I don’t think bad.”
You have that thought.
It’s because you didn’t get to process it out or be a part of that inner working conversation. It’s a little bit of like a cut that doesn’t appear to be that bad in the fabric until all of a sudden, you keep pulling and now you’ve separated a relationship.
It tends to be women in the marriage that seek outside their friends and the mom, sister, or whomever it is. This is in marriage, business, and anything. If you can turn to the person, go to the source, and talk it out, it doesn’t have time to fester into something that isn’t.
This is even biblically. If you look at the steps of how you overcome an issue, it says, “Go to that person.” It doesn’t say, “Go to your friends to process,” because what I envision is someone standing there going, “You don’t understand. I’m just going to my girlfriend’s to process.” The Bible doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say, “Go talk to your girlfriends about the problem with the person.” It says, “Go to the person, talk it out with the person, and if you can’t come to amends, then go get a third party.” Biblically speaking, it even shows us that that’s the path.Go to the person and talk it out. If you can't come to amends, then get a third party. Click To Tweet
You feel like, “I’m afraid to say this to my husband.” Practice. At some level, the only way we’re going to get good at this is by practicing the thing we want to get good at. You’re going to say things like, “I might not say this the right way.” Write that down. You’re going to say things like, “I’m practicing here. I’m verbally processing here. This is not what you mean, but this is what I feel.”
One of the biggest things that have helped our marriage is coming to the table and saying 1) “Are you open for feedback? You’re allowed to say no, but don’t then press and have the conversation.” 2) “This is how it makes me feel.” Go and explain how it makes you feel to get the other side’s perspective and opinion. Sometimes in the midst of a conversation, it’s better to talk, process, have the other person talk, process, and then separate, then circle back around after you’ve had time to think through it and maybe how you would approach it or how you were. As a man, it’s hard to take ownership at that moment when you were wrong.
That is not just a man thing. That is a human thing.
It goes with your kids too. I’ve been in situations with all my kids. It had nothing to do with them and something was weighing heavy on me. I take it out on them and minutes later, I come to apologize to them and explain to them that it’s me. I apologize for how I acted and respond because I don’t want them to carry some shame or something because I blew up on them, but I had nothing to do with them.
You and I will go, “Let me have a minute to think about that because you can tell we’re trying to pause our own ego, anger, anxiety, or whatever.” I even heard it. I was like, “I’m about to ask you a question, but I want you to think about it.” You can tell that they’re giving us space to think and process. Even our kids will start to respond to this type of communication.
“Don’t give me your first response. Just sit with that.”
“I might freak out with that because I’ve told you no 100 times.” They’re like, “I want you to think about it.” You’ll hear him say things like, “That frustrates me.” Nick was like, “That makes me angry when you did that.” They’re listening. They’re watching how we do this. It’s not going to be about being perfect as a parent. It’s about being real, going back, owning it, slowing it down, and, “Are you open for feedback? This is how it makes me feel.”
It’s time to process and think about it. If you need to journal it or you go on a walk, I’ve done that too. You give the story. When we were driving back from Lake Havasu, we were twelve hours into this trip. We had another two hours left. I was also thinking about it because 1 or 2 weeks later, we were going to get back in the car and drive back to Colorado, which is like 16 hours, but then we were going to take another 4, so it was going to be like 20 hours. My mind was going crazy.
We had to pull over a bunch of times. The kids were making noise. We pulled over on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere for a bathroom break. I walked away from the car and I let out this giant scream. You were in the car, but the kids jumped not knowing like, “What happened? Did Dad see something? What’s going on?” All of a sudden, because I turned around and sighed, they all started dying laughing. I explained to them, “I had this energy.” As opposed to turning around and yelling at them to be quiet, I just needed to go take care of it myself.
He didn’t yell at any of us. That is the whole point. I have a video so I won’t go into it in-depth but you can go check out the How To Do Confrontation Well. I walk myself through almost these four points in my head when I sit in that processing time because, for me, I need to know, “Is this a mistake, a pattern, or a thing under the thing if I’m making a decision from connection and passion?” Go watch the video. I have four steps that I walk myself through. When I come back around to you, I did not just look at my side. I’ve considered yours and mine. I’ve dug deeper. I looked at all the things that normally bother me and how I tend to show up.
When I come, I’ve had this whole assessment which helps people to feel like, “We’re not on opposite sides here. We’re on the same team. We’re after the same thing here in our marriage, which is connection and passion.” That’s where we’re fighting from, which allows us to do this well. We don’t fight. It is intense fellowship and you can feel our intensity, but it’s because we’ve committed to doing it well.
You have to communicate. You can’t bury things and suppress things because it’s going to come out in a negative way at some point somehow.You have to communicate. You can't bury and suppress things because it's going to come out negatively at some point somehow. Click To Tweet
The way that I would encourage this is as simple and get as hard as you have to start practicing. If you go, “We don’t have time. We have the kids and work,” it’s about making time. It has to be a priority. The more we kick the can down the road, we create habits in our marriage. We create communication routines in our marriage. If we only pick it up once a year to talk about it, it’s one of those things that we have to create some new and fresh and some pattern interrupts.
I remember the first time Travis was out of the blue, where I was standing and he’s like, “How’s our sex life for you?” I was like, “Are we talking?” He looked at me like, “What do you like? What do you not like?” Immediately, I was like, “I don’t know how to answer this question.” That is something that if we’re not talking about these things, how are we even ensuring our sex life is healthy and that we’re looking at money the same way? How are ensuring that we’re thinking about our priorities, parenting, and all of these things the same way? Not only just the same way for a decade but once a quarter, checking in and going, “How’s it working for you? How’s it going?”
That’s a totally different episode and we will do one on there, but it’s important to understand the things that divide and separate marriages. Sex is one of them. Money is one of them. Lack of communication is one of them. We’re going to do another episode specifically on a few of these topics and dive deeper on breaking down like, “How do you communicate in the midst of potentially it being an awkward conversation or what you deem to be an awkward conversation, but how it can bring your marriage closer and how much better it can be if you have those conversations?”
Tag your spouse. Make sure that they read each one of these episodes as we continue to give you the front-row seat and how to do this well, not because we have it down pat or perfectly, but because hopefully, it will open up conversations for the people that are in your inner circle so that you two can enjoy a little intense fellowship. Until next time.
- How To Do Confrontation Well – YouTube
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