Come on, think back when you were a child. There was a time in your life, where you had siblings or even a childhood friend, that when something happened where you and your sibling or friend got angry they retaliated against you by doing the same thing you did to them. And in some cases, the pay back was worse and then they would say, “Well, you did it?”!

The majority would say that conjuring up the past and throwing it up in someone’s face later or even using the past to justify a current situation is only human nature and another example of “tic for tat”. Physiologists would say that it is classic “transference”. I say that it is a learned behavior that we practice throughout our lives and only intensifies when we are married. How many times can you remember acting out of anger because of something that your husband or wife did and because you wanted them to feel your pain or anger, and you wanted them to be equally hurt? This “tic for tat” reaction is played out! This transferring your hurt and pain to the other person makes the old phrase “misery loves company”, oh so true.

If you’ve fallen victim of the “tic for tat syndrome” and want to stop it, it must begin with you. Just like those who’ve attended AA, the rule is you must admit that you are a “tic for tat” addict. You must also practice positive reinforcement that learned behavior can be broken and stopped once and for all!

We all have two sides to us, the good side and the bad side. These two sides constantly war against one another, very much like the spirit and the flesh. A lot of times in the heat of our emotions, the bad side wants to rear its ugly head and be revengeful. However, when you are in relations with someone, you are to love that person.

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

This goes for wives too; love as you love yourself, as you are yoked together and function as one. Love is not just words, but an action. Love others as Christ so loved you.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:16-18

Not only are you in relationship with your spouse, but your spouse is your brother and sister in Christ. God calls us to have love for our family members in the Body of Christ.

Remember the cartoon Tom and Jerry, and how the cat would sometimes be depicted as having a good angel on one side of his ear, and then the bad devil on the other side. That’s exactly how the Holy Spirit and the flesh, our good and bad side reacts. We are so accustomed to listening and giving into the flesh and adhering to the bad side because of what we thought to be socially acceptable and correct behavior exhibited through the “tic for tat syndrome”, that we fail to realize that in our closest of relationships it’s a breeding ground for other problems. In a marriage, the “tic for tat syndrome” opens the door for resentment, a break down in communication and unfulfilled desires, just to name a few, which are all ingredients for deterioration of a relationship.

In order to overcome the “tic for tat syndrome” we have to reprogram our thinking and start listening to the “good angel” more. My mother, use to tell me, “kill them with kindness”. When your spouse does something to tic you off, don’t stoop down to their level and seek to do the same thing. Do the complete opposite. Remember it takes two to tango. Another thing my mother use to tell me is “if you don’t have anything nice to say to one another, then don’t say anything at all”. Sometimes married couples need “time-outs”, and then they can come back at a time when both parties are more reasonable and level-headed. Defeating the “tic for tat syndrome” can also be combated by establishing rules for handling conflict and anger. The Peacemaker’s Ministry has the Peacemaker’s Pledge. So long as both parties are willing, there is no reason why a couple can not rob, duplicate and cater this model into their own marriage by establishing the Godly rules that work with their personalities and marriage.

Note that breaking a life time of behavior is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take practice and self discipline. It is a well know philosophy that it takes 21 days to break a habit. If you are a “tic for tat” addict, start today by admitting you are and let us know here at Marriagetrac about your recovery in applying the principals of His word and the suggestions made above.

Copyright © 2005 Tanisha L. Roebuck, Used with permission

Ms. Tanisha L. Roebuck is an attorney, business management consultant and motivational speaker. She is also the CEO and founder of the recently launched R&A Christian Outreach, Inc., a Christian non-profit entertainment production company. Ms. Roebuck loves the Lord and seeks to share her experiences in efforts to help others.

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