I’m constantly posting on Instagram or in our marriage newsletter asking, “What are you struggling with in your marriage? How can we help? What can we write about? How can we serve you through this blog and our newsletter?” We have such a deep desire to build up marriages by sharing our own story and the stories of others, but it can sometimes be hard to know what people are needing/wanting (so please, do share!!! You can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!!) : )
Why I’m sharing this is because there has been a question that has come up a lot when I ask this and I want to talk about it today. I’ve had several people who are not engaged or engaged ask something along the lines of, “What is your best advice for newlyweds? How can I be preparing for my marriage now? Etc.” Let me first say that we are TOTALLY still newlyweds being only three years in, but as I have reflected on this question, I do feel like I have something important/helpful that I want to share! So, this is what I would first ask those people in return:
How often do you want to fight with your spouse?
I can imagine that most people would say, “As infrequently as possible!” I mean, who WANTS to fight with their spouse!?! And yet we all find ourselves fighting with our spouses. I have been trying to be more intentional lately, reflecting back on conflict with Caleb and trying to find some sort of pattern or common ground or way that our fights could have been prevented. So … want to know a common “trend” that I saw in our conflict (and I’ll be clear, I’m referring to MY half of the conflict here)?:
Many — probably all — of us struggle with stubbornness in some capacity. We are prideful and we don’t want to be called out or be wrong. Can anyone else relate or is this just me?! I tend to think my way is the best way/my way is right. And THIS mindset is what leads to a LOT of the conflict in our marriage.
Let me give you a (real life) example:
Let’s say I ask Caleb to vacuum the rug in the living room because, the night before, we had opened a box that was filled with little styrofoam pieces and from where I’m sitting editing, I can see that we missed a bunch of those pieces vacuuming the night before and they are bothering me.
So I say, “Hey Caleb, would you mind vacuuming the rug today?” And he says, “Of course!” But he doesn’t get up from what he’s doing to vacuum. And an hour passes … and he still hasn’t vacuumed. I feel myself getting annoyed because I could have just vacuumed by now and it would be done. But I’m trying to get a lot of editing done and I want to focus on this one task in front of me. So, with this tension, I’m letting that annoyance build inside me a bit and I say to him, “You’re going to vacuum right?” And he says, “Yep!” And another hour goes by and he still hasn’t vacuumed. At this point, I’m super annoyed.
I’m annoyed because I expected him to vacuum it right away (even though I didn’t communicate that) and because of my specific personality, the dirty rug is bothering me WAY more than it does him. So, I get up (loudly) and say (loudly), “I’ll just do it!!!” And I vacuum the rug. And I am annoyed. And he comes in and says (as I probably don’t even acknowledge him coming into the room), “I was going to do that. You said by the end of the day.”
And here we have it. I didn’t communicate my exact expectation (this is my fault) and he took what I said literally (by the end of the day) but because my (unshared) expectation wasn’t met, I got annoyed and let that build inside of me. AND NOW, because I’m stubborn, I’m probably going to try to justify why I was right in getting upset and he was wrong. And we’re in conflict. Who knows how long I won’t want to talk to him or will isolate myself as a result of this (that is, as a reminder, my fault). All over a damn rug that had a few pieces of styrofoam on it.
So, I ask again, how often do you want to fight with your spouse? This example is clearly, SO small and SOOOO stupid when it comes to conflict in a marriage, but these types of opportunities arise WAY more than you might think.
If you’re obsessed with being right or thinking your way is definitely better, then what you’re telling me is that you want to fight a lot with your spouse.
Marriage is a coming together of two (oftentimes) very different people. While maybe I would have vacuumed the rug immediately, Caleb will get to it in time and he will do it by the end of the day … like I asked. Neither way or time of doing it is BETTER than the other.
I would challenge you, in moments when you find yourself at odds with your spouse over how something is done, to ask yourself if that different way of doing something is truly worth getting upset at your spouse, holding it over their head, building resentment, proving a point, etc. Because is your way actually BETTER? Because maybe you should just let it go (like really … let it go) and accept that there CAN be more than one “right” way of doing something. If we could all just lay down our pride and be a little less stubborn (preaching to the choir here people!), I think we would see a lot less conflict in our marriages.
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