By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHC, Bellevue Christian Counseling
Here you are again.
After all, it was her turn to take out the trash, right? How did this turn into an argument? Nobody wants to fight their husband or wife, but while fighting is not pleasant, it can show that a couple has an emotional investment. Think about it, you don’t fight with someone you don’t care about, right? If you genuinely hate someone, you don’t bother. Who has time to waste arguing with a sworn enemy? So take heart the next time you argue about nothing. The fact that you are engaging one another shows an emotional commitment to your relationship.
Love in the Midst of Disagreement
It’s funny but almost 70% of what couples argue about at the beginning of their marriage, they are still arguing about 30 years later. Generally, that 70% is about things that will never change. Why does your husband still leave the dishes in the sink, after all these years? Why does your wife leave her shoes all over the house?
Do you remember how attractive her differences were when you first met her? His forgetfulness used to seem cute; her free spirit drew you to her like a moth to the light. Then one day you realized you could not change them. Maybe that day is today.
We are each indelibly shaped by life from our upbringing and our general “take” on the way the world works. Marriage is an adventure. You have committed your life to somebody who is totally unlike you. And yet, people do a great deal of bickering trying to emotionally coerce one another to lose their identity within the relationship. Your husband or wife is a uniquely beautiful and uniquely flawed work of art. Take delight in the beauty and give grace for the flaws.
Our Oldest Tricks
The temptation is always to emotionally coerce our beloved with our oldest tricks- tricks that have worked for us since we were young. In this kind of argument, spouses will withdraw and do the silent treatment, withholding love like a pouting child. Others of us will rant and rave like an infant in desperate need of a nap. Or we impugn the other’s worth or integrity like a playground bully- I don’t think that I am alone in this! It is all too easy to whine and gripe and employ our trick bag of childish strategies to get our way.
Marriage is ingenious. It drives you to something like nothing else in life can – to truly grow up! The crucible of marriage forces you to confront yourself. It drives you to become truly strong in your self, to soothe your own emotions, and to manage your own anxiety. You are forced to make your desires known without trying to subjugate your spouse emotionally, allowing them and yourself to truly make choices freely. The process, as beautiful as it is, can be overwhelming at times.
A Christian therapist can help you get started in this kind of growth and recapture a vision of the beauty and growth that can come out of the most trying times of your marriage.
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.com -“Disagree Or Agree Directions” by Stuart Miles