Marriage Lessons Learned
Last month my husband and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. I wish I could say that after 37 years we have arrived at “marital bliss,” but I can’t. What I can say is that the lessons I have learned in the last 37 years could not have been learned any other way. God allows us to be in relationships that are sometimes “irritating” so as to sharpen and refine us. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Have you ever pictured iron sharpening iron? Sparks fly as the two pieces of metal collide. But it is through the collision and the heat that the sharpening takes place.
Most of us grew up believing the ending to most fairy tales, “They got married and lived happily ever after.” And most of us who have been married for a while have probably been disappointed that marriage really isn’t that easy. So, what do we do when the sparks fly? (Trust me, they will!) Here are some tips for how to handle conflict in marriage. Some of them I’ve learned in 37 years; some I’m still trying to master.
- Face your fear of confrontation. I hate confrontation, but my husband loves to get things resolved. I learned pretty early in our marriage that our fights could last five minutes or five hours, and it all depended on me. If I tried to avoid confrontation my husband would keep going until the situation was addressed. If I got in there and fought it out, the confrontation would usually end within five minutes!
- Focus on the behavior, not the person. Try, “Could you please put your dishes in the dishwasher?” rather than “You’re such a slob!”
- Stay on topic. Our fights in marriage usually follow the same themes. But be careful not to bring up past hurts or failures, even if they are similar to what is frustrating you right now.
- Be assertive (and respectful). Assertiveness is found in the balance between passive and aggressive. Passive says, “I only care about you, so you can walk all over me and I won’t say anything.” Aggressive says, “I only care about me, so I’m going to walk all over you; if you don’t like it, too bad.” Assertive says, “I care about you, and I care about me, so I won’t do anything to intentionally hurt you; but I also won’t let you do anything to intentionally hurt me.”
- Really listen to your spouse. Most of us know what we are trying to say, and sometimes it just doesn’t come out right. Our spouses are no different. There are times when my husband tells me something that I perceive as mean. I have to really listen to him, and sometimes I even say, “If you just said what I think you said that hurt.” This gives him the opportunity to restate what he meant, not what I heard!
Try these tips and see what a difference they can make in your marriage. Living happily ever after takes a lot of work, but it is worth the effort!