Reflections on Marriage: 14 Years Later

About a week before Bill and I got married, red bugs ate me up.  I’d never had them before and had no idea what the big, itchy bumps were, so I showed them to my mom.  As soon as she saw them, she told me to paint every swollen, red and white whelp with clear nail polish.

Then, I spent the rest of the week bathing in Clorox water to get them dried up quickly.  AND there was lots and lots of cocoa butter to prevent scarring. I was getting married at the end of the week AND going on a cruise for my honeymoon, for heaven’s sake!

That was 14 years ago this week, and our kids still ask to hear that story and see the pictures of our wedding day; some of which show barely pink dots still visible around my ankles.

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June 12, 2004

Realizing our wedding anniversary was coming this week made me think back to that happy day, but it also made me consider every day since – approximately 5,110 of them.

What do I have to show for all this time?  What have I learned? How have I grown and changed and matured?  Have I picked up any wisdom along the way?

 

I took a few days to journal about it and also “interviewed” Bill to see what he wanted to share.  The first time I had a chance to ask him, he was watching Game 4 of the NBA Finals, so I waited for commercials and halftime break.

You would think I’d have learned by now not to try to have important conversations during sporting events.  I’m a little hard-headed, though.

Turns out, we had to talk another time.  🙂

ANYway, here are some of the things 14 years of marriage has taught us:

Bill said: Marriage is about give and take.  You won’t always get your way. Sometimes you go to a place you wouldn’t go to or watch something on TV you may not want to watch because you know it’s something the other person likes.  Hopefully the other person will do the same for you.

I said: Love is an action, not a feeling.  The warm, fuzzy, lying-on-a-bed-of-roses mindset changes.  You may not be “in love” with your husband every day, but every day you have to choose to love him, and you show you’ve made that choice by the things you do.

Bill said:  A person’s financial status is important.  I didn’t think about that much when we were dating, but I know how important it is now – to know how much debt a person has or what their spending habits are like.

(Can you tell the man has heard too much Dave Ramsey)?

I said: It’s ok to argue, to have differences of opinion.  It’s actually helpful. You discover more about your spouse and yourself as you work through conflict together.  Arguing doesn’t always mean there is a problem with your marriage.

Bill said: I didn’t really know who you were until we got married and lived together.  Then, I found out little things like you squeeze toothpaste from the bottom, and I don’t.  Or we want thermostat at different temperatures. We don’t wash and fold clothes the same either.  If I wasn’t careful, those little things could get to be big problems. I tried to change some of the ways I did things if it made sense to me to do that.  Sometimes, you compromise.

I said: Find out what’s important to your husband about how you keep house and care for the kids, especially if you’re a stay-at-home-mom or the one in change of the household stuff.  Don’t kill yourself doing all.the.things. (I heard this from Lysa TerKeurst and Proverbs 31 Ministries). Years ago, I asked Bill, “when you come home every day, what’s important for you?  Do you want to come home to a clean house? Dinner on the table? Calm and quiet kids? Do you need some downtime when you first get here?” He said he wanted dinner, so that’s what I focus on.  Yes, I keep the house as tidy as possible and do laundry and make sure the kids aren’t running naked through the backyard, but the man says he wants dinner ready when he gets home, so that is what he gets.

We agreed that it’s helpful to get to know and (hopefully) get along with your spouse’s family.  Bill said, “Most likely, you’ll end up being like your family, especially your mom, and I’ll end up being like my family, especially my dad, so getting to know each other’s family gives insight into who you married.”

We also talked about having children; that brings big changes in your marriage.  I asked Bill why he thought that was. He told me it’s because you have to share your wife’s attention after you have a baby.  There are other people to think about after that.

Now, I don’t mean to condense 14 years of marriage into 1,000 words or less because it isn’t that simple. There have been fairy-tale days (when we gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes over a romantic, candlelit dinner), and there have been horror movie days (when he walked in the house after work and I was blubbering and handed him a crying baby and went in the bedroom and shut the door).

You get it, right?  It’s just life – married, with kids, life.

You appreciate the wonderful seasons because you’ve been through challenging seasons, but you’re wiser for it, and your relationship is much stronger.

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I’d love to hear some wisdom you’ve gained from your marriage.  Please share how long you’ve been married and what you’ve learned so far.

 

7 Tips for Fighting Better

My husband and I had a challenging conversation the other night.  I like to call this having a “difference of opinion”. 😉

Have you ever had a difference of opinion with someone?  It happens, right?

So why not learn some ways to fight better?  No, I don’t mean learn how to always win the fight.

What I’m saying is, let’s learn some better ways to fight so that we can find an amicable solution or so that we can at least can walk away with our feelings and the other person’s feelings in tact.

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7 Tips to Fight Better

  • Stop.  Stay calm.  This is important whether the conflict happens on social media or in person.  The Bible calls this being “slow to anger,” and is full of verses that speak to the wisdom in remaining composed.  Take a moment to stop and pray, even if it’s just a short, “Help me please, Lord.”  Take time to think through what happened and ask yourself, “Am I really upset at this?  Is this worth getting into a disagreement over?” If the answer is no, move on. If the answer is yes, it’s still a good idea to wait and try to keep your cool.
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  • Acknowledge your own part in the conflict.  What assumptions and expectations do you hold that are influencing how you talk about this situation?  A related question to ask yourself is, ‘Did I do anything to offend the other person’? A familiar verse that supports this tip is Matthew 7:1-5.  Christians are challenged to deal with the “log in your own eye” before you “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  It is hypocritical to point out all the things your spouse, sibling, friend, or in-law did wrong if you won’t acknowledge your part in the problem.
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  • Talk face-to-face and one-on-one.  Whenever possible, go to the person and talk in private.  Avoid venting to someone else. (Don’t fuss to your sister about your lazy husband or to your husband about your annoying coworker…you get the picture).  Also avoid taking the issue to social media. I think we all know what can happen here. This is called “airing dirty laundry”, and it almost always turns out badly.  In Matthew 18:15a, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. This was a verse I saw over and over when I was researching this topic.  Matthew 18:15-17 was used often as the key verse to show biblical conflict management.

 

 

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  • Find common ground.  Focus on the relationship.  If you can find something you have in common with that person, you’re much more likely to be able to cooperate, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, show that you care about that person, be honest about your feelings, and be respectful of the other person’s feelings .  Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of evil.  Remember, the other person isn’t your enemy – Satan is, and he’s the one who wants the conflict to tear apart your relationship.

 

  • Listen. Let the other person talk, even if you’re the one who brought up the issue because you were hurt or wronged.  After you explain what’s wrong, allow the other person to have his/her say, too. Sit quietly. Don’t plan your retort.  Just listen. It’s ok to ask for clarification as the person is speaking – to repeat some of the things he/she said to be sure you understood – but leave some space for her otherwise.  There may be some underlying issues you don’t know about or unspoken expectations or assumptions that have made the problem worse.
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  • Focus on the main issue.  It is very likely that other problems will surface while you’re trying to work this out.  While those shouldn’t be ignored completely, they should be sidelined for the moment as you focus on the current situation.  What offended you in the first place? If it was the fact that your husband doesn’t help with the dishes and cleaning the kitchen after dinner, you’ll have to table the issue of him not helping get the kids in the bed and come back to that later.

 

  • Forgive.  Give grace. Did you know that God wants us to put our worship on hold and forgive someone we have a grudge against first.  It’s THAT important. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  God wants us to come before Him with clean hearts – not hearts burdened with contempt over an offense or argument.

 

The next time you find yourself having a difference of opinion with someone, remember these tips.  Take a moment to stop, pray, and ask for God’s guidance. Then, go to this person, and begin the conversation.

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Think back to some recent conflicts you’ve had.  Which of these tips did you use? Which ones didn’t you use? How did the use of these tips (or lack thereof) influence the way the conflict was handled?

Can you think of other helpful tips to share?

For more on the subject of biblical conflict management read When Your Feelings Are Hurt.  Also, see What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit.

I used the following resources in my research for this post:
9 Ways to Handle Conflict Biblically

Conflict Resolution

Experiencing Intercultural Communication 4th Edition

Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters 8th Edition

Sermon: Jesus’ Plan for Resolving Conflict – Matthew 5, 18

Tips and Tools for Healthy Conflict Resolution