THE TWO BOXERS SIT and exchange hateful stares with each other. They can hardly see each other clearly as their vision is blurred by sweat and fatigue.
As the bell rings to signal the start of yet another round of combat, they stumble towards each other almost as if they are in a trance. They are so weary, they do not have the strength to raise their arms to adopt a fighting posture, much less throw the next punch.
The tired fighters slump and lean on each other not for mutual support but rather out of sheer exhaustion. They wait eagerly for the bell to signal the end of a round but know that the fight is not over yet.
Is this a description of a heavyweight boxing tournament? It could very well be. But this is a metaphoric scene that I visualise taking place with some couples that I am counselling. They have been slugging it out for months, if not years.
Some couples fight so regularly it is as if they, like the boxers, are responding to the ringing of a bell. Some couples re-ignite their bitter fights over the most petty issues. Other couples have grown so exhausted of fighting that they just refuse to communicate or even look at each other. They simply coexist in the same home.
I met two couples recently who seem to just want to “throw in the towel” and call it quits. Yet even though divorce seemed to be a tempting solution to end all their unhappiness, they were too tired to even start the process. They were stuck, unable and unwilling to either repair or undo their marriage.
This was when I suggested that they take a step back and step away from the abyss that was before them. You may be surprised that even though this may seem like a prudent thing to do, a good number of couples seem reluctant to do so.
Their reluctance is not because they are unconvinced of its practical value. It is often that they do not want to be seen as the first to do it as it may be construed as a sign of weakness and an admission of defeat.
If the couple can see that it is for the sake of the marriage that they step back, then this becomes an act of self-discipline and sacrifice. Stepping back communicates that both parties do not want to carry on with the vicious cycles of hurt, disappointment and anger.
To choose to stop fighting means that the diﬀerences that they have still exist, but they agree to live with these disagreements. But when this decision is made, it marks a needed cessation of conflict and then the peace-making can start.
This now gives the couple breathing space to allow for some stability to return to their lives. This is a period of truce before real peace-making happens. The period of truce may be no longer than a month or two lest the couple become “comfortable” with denying their diﬀerences.
During this period I advise couples to return to some normalisation of their relationship. They are asked to carry on doing all those duties and responsibilities that are essential to the maintenance of their marriage and their family. They may understandably not be ready to do any couple activity and because of the existing volatility, it may be wise not to force this to happen.
Some couples voice surprise at how their marriage had come to be this way. They may, under other circumstances, be seen as good work mates, friendly neighbours, or amiable and good-natured persons. They may also believe that holding a grudge is out of character for them. When confronted by their inflexibility, they often point to their spouses, whom they blame as bringing out the worst in them.
But each of us is capable of this behaviour of getting angry with another and then holding on to it. The eﬀect of such stubborn anger is toxic to any relationship.
That is why the Bible advises against letting the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). Some couples try to apply this literally and hastily and force themselves to settle things before actually discussing them. The consequences of this are as bad as those who do not try to forgive and move on.
May the bells that ring out in our homes be bells of joy rather than bells for the next round of fighting.
Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.
Annual Conferences to elect presidents this year
ALL THREE ANNUAL CONFERENCES of The Methodist Church in Singapore will be holding their annual sessions next month. They will be electing their respective presidents for the next quadrennium.
The first to meet will be Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference, which will be from Nov 8 to 10 at Tamil Methodist Church in Short Street.
Then, the Chinese Annual Conference will meet at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church 2 or TA 2 at Wishart Road, oﬀ Telok Blangah Road, from Nov 11 to 15.
Finally, Trinity Annual Conference will meet at Paya Lebar Methodist Church at Boundary Road from Nov 19 to 22.
GC-WSCS to meet in JB
Following that, the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) will hold its 10th Session Quadrennial General Meeting at Thistle Johor Bahru Hotel in the heart of Johor Bahru from Nov 24 to 26. The meeting will also elect a new president for the next quadrennium.
The theme for the meeting is “Be Vigilant, Be Sober”, based on the text from 1 Peter: 5:8. About 120 WSCS women from the three Annual Conferences are expected to attend.
Bishop Dr Robert Solomon will speak at the Opening and Closing Services.