Many people look forward to the fall because of the college football season. For me, I’m mad about March. Most people, who know me, know why. I love basketball and it’s the ideal month for basketball fans. If you aren’t aware, it’s the month of college basketball finals. I really enjoy a variety of sports, and some people would use the word competitive to describe me. I will admit I am competitive in sports activities, but when it comes to my family and marriage, I don’t seek to compete but to complete.
If you ever listen to sports commentators, you may hear them proclaim, “The best offense is a great defense.” It sounds kind of wishy-washy as though teams can’t decide which is better to focus on. But the idea is that if the defense prevents the other team from scoring points, then the offense is in a better position of not having to score as many. It takes the pressure off the offense. That doesn’t mean the offense doesn’t have to make an effort, but they can breathe easier if the other team is prevented from scoring a lot of points.
In marriage and family, the opposite strategy should be used. The comment should be, “The best offense is the best offense.” Because in the game of relationships with people, it’s better when everyone wins.
When you think about the definition of defense, it means to stop. Fans will often create signs with the letters “DE” and then a picture of a fence. That’s because defense involves putting up a fence or a wall to keep the other team from getting past you in order to score. Whether it’s on the court, the ice, or the field, the athletes who play defense are trying to stop the other team. That’s why it won’t work in marriage and family life. The goal for couples and children should be to let the people they love move forward.
The goal of most sports teams is to monitor wins and losses, but in marriage, the goal is not to keep track of right and wrongs. When you are out of line in sports, there are consequences such as penalties, fouls, and flags on the play. If you rack up too many, it could affect the outcome of the game. When you are out of line in marriage or family, the consequences could be more devastating. You could lose your spouse, not just a game.
By presenting a good offense, you can offset the defensive behaviors that naturally arise when you engage in conflict. When you tell someone you love something they might not want to hear, they instinctively begin to formulate an argument justifying what they did or said. In other words, they get defensive. They focus all of their energy on a strategy that will prevent you from going any further. They essentially want you to stop even though what you’re saying may be helpful to them. Initially, they may take it as criticism.
This is where you employ your offensive tactics. Check your tone of voice. Is it condescending or is it loving? Check your choice of words and pronouns. Use more “I” terms such as “I feel” or “In my opinion, I’ve noticed.” Be careful to avoid saying phrases like, “You always” or “you never.” So often the way we deliver a message can be the difference between success and failure. Remember the goal is not to declare victory over the other person, but for both of you to win.