Be angry and do not sin. ~ Eph. 4:26a
This last part of my marriage series is probably the most important to helping Jeremy and I come back together. Like many couples that are falling apart, we had some knock down drag out fights. During them we both said hurtful words. Words that at times seemed to wrench cracks clear down to the foundation of our relationship and felt tangible.
If you’re on the verge of quitting or have been there, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. Interestingly though, the very times that brought the most hurt to our relationship are also the ones God’s used to help build it back up.
Through learning how to fight well, our relationship has been resurrected out of the ashes. Instead of arguments and disagreements ripping us apart, they are now times that help to build us up and strengthen our marriage. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not.
For us learning when to not fight was the first key. Instead of insisting on talking when one or both of us was very angry, we now try to set a later time to discuss whatever the problem is preferably before bed time if possible.
When the appointed time comes there are a few ground rules we follow. I’m sure you’ve heard them all before:
- No dumping junk from the past
- No name calling
- No blaming
We didn’t actually talk about these, but I found when abide by them, Jeremy does too.
After remembering what not to do, I always begin in one of two way, since I’m the talker, I’m usually the one to begin ; ). If it is a fight about someone being hurt, I always begin by apologizing for my part, with no excuses, no matter how small I feel it may be. I find that when I take responsibility in this way, it helps Jeremy to not be on the defensive and more ready to take responsibility for his actions, too.
After the apology or if it is a argument about us having two different points of view, I say something like, “When you do X (or say X), I feel (or hear) Y.” This statement works wonders. It lets Jeremy know how I’m feeling or what I’m hearing, without blaming him or saying, “You always…” It also lets him know that I want to hear and listen to what he has to say. Usually he follows up with his own thoughts or what he really meant, and we’re able to work out whatever the problem is.
I know this sounds overly simplistic, but I’m telling you it works. Now most of our fights and disagreements follow basically this same pattern, and I’m prone to say that one of my favorite things about us is how we fight.
Before learning these strategies, I didn’t know anything but knock down drag out screaming fights. I had no other example growing up, and I didn’t know better from our own previous experience. I actually remember where we were driving on N. MacArthur Ave. in Oklahoma City while having our first “healthy, normal” fight. I remember thinking in the middle of it, “This is okay and normal. Our relationship won’t be in danger afterwards.” It was such a relief!
There were a few other steps we had to take to get completely away from knock down drag out fights to healthy fighting. I’ve outlined them in a separate post linked here.
Like everything else, moving from fights that destroyed to those that built up, didn’t happen over night. But I did find that the more I stuck to my guns about what was okay and not okay, and treated Jeremy how I wanted to be treated, even in the middle of a fight, things gradually began to change.
I cannot tell you how joyful I am that they did. If I had walked away seven years ago, I would have missed out on so much! It’s hard to tell where I would be now, certainly not in a better place. Through it all, I’m so thankful I stopped trying to fix Jeremy and instead began to fix myself. In doing so I was able to learn how to be a whole person by myself and not so dependent on others. I also learned how to treat myself and others better, and how to kindly but firmly ask for the same thing from them.
I am not the same person I was seven years ago. We both aren’t. We are now, I think, better versions of who we were and have grown closer together in the process.
I pray the same for you and your spouse. If you’re struggling today, I encourage you to not give up just yet. Yes, there are some situations that you do have to walk away from, but please, seek God, try some of the steps I’ve written about, and seek professional, Godly help before you quit.
When you quit, it doesn’t just effect you, as I’m sure you’re aware. Your children, even adult children, will hurt and have to process and work through what this new life means. Both of my parents got remarried last year, and though I don’t know my step parents well, it seems my they are godly people who are good to my parents. Even with that, no child should have to deal with all the upheaval that divorce brings unless it can’t be avoided.
As you seek to pick up your feet and place them both back in the boat for one more go, please remember to first seek God and curl up close to him. It is he that will ultimately guide you back to each other and help you find your way home.