Forgiving the Imperfect

“I hate you. You ruin everything.” My niece said this comment this weekend when she didn’t get her way and disapproved how a conversation was going. Nothing like a sucker punch…

Then 5 minutes later we were all in her good graces again like nothing every happened and building a cave out of blankets and pillows.

Seriously we should all have this mentality of forgiveness. Be in the moment and let the past go. We probably shouldn’t go for the sucker punches and hurtful words though. My focus here is the carefree attitude and forgetting past grievances.

This is not always easy for me to do in my quest for independence and a need to be right. I am stubborn to a fault.

My marriage has been a constant reminder about the lessons of humility, not needing to be right ALL the time, and getting past arguments so they don’t impede on the future or our love for each other.

I heard this list on the radio recently.

The 5 dumbest things couples argue about:

5. Laundry

4. Staying out late without telling the other person where you are

3. What to watch on TV

2. Cell phone bills

1. Emptying the dishwasher.

Anything sound familiar?

5. I am not sure if we have had a fight persay about laundry, but I am sure we have nitpicked at each other. We have fought over our laundry machine though…

4. Staying out late…yep that has happened

3. What to watch on TV-you know I am not remembering a time where we have. We razz each other about what we like watching. Sometimes he will watch what he wants and I will read or vice versa. We watch a lot of things together too, so I think this helps stave off any “arguments.” We may have tip-toed around it when I first moved here but we have fallen into a pretty good groove that the anxiety went away. And having a DVR helps.

2. Cell phone bills-I know we have fought over the password, but not the actual bill. This was actually the worst fight we had while he was deployed. So silly.

1. Emptying the dishwasher-um sadly probably once a week this debate continues….Did I mention that both of us are a little bit stubborn and have a little bit of lazy in us? Funny though, that we switch sides and use the same arguments against each other. I also think we each are just waiting out the other to see who will break first. haha the age old gotcha game.

Arguments are inevitable. I don’t think that there is a secret recipe that you can shake at it that will let you avoid tiffs in your relationship. I think people are lying when they say they don’t get into fights with their spouse (or they are ignoring things and bottling them up for the fight of a life time or possibly divorce). You are two individuals living together trying to live in harmony all the time. Things are bound to get stressful, emotions are going to rise, and expectations will not be met. Insert fight scenario here.

But.

You can get past it AND still love each other.

It’s true.

Tom and I could not be more opposite (except when it comes to desserts and all things 90s music) which can be a recipe for disagreements, but we love each other through and through despite his hatred for musicals.

When I asked Tom initially about his thoughts on conflict, he said, “There is one simple step to conflict resolution. Soften up their defenses with a MK-19, wait until nightfall, and overrun their perimeter with a superior force.”

Then we had a real conversation about relationships. We came up with some of our top considerations/tips for confrontation with your significant other:

1. Think about big picture-

Me-Does it really make that big of a difference if Tom wants to stay over at his friends to camp over night? No, I was just being selfish and thought I would never see him again. Long lasting effects of long distance…I will see him again, and I know it’s not because he doesn’t want to hang out with me. In the end is what you are fighting about really worth what you and your spouse have together?

Tom-She is either going to divorce you or she’s going to get over it.

2. Recognize each other’s fighting styles

Me-Tom calls me out all the time because I like to retreat. I call him out because he likes to yell. Maybe those play against each other…Neither of these are helpful, but we know that is how we work so we have to try really hard not to push each other to those points just to get our thoughts across. There is also an element of understanding the right things to say (or not say) in these situations. There are some things that may push the person further into ‘smoke out the ears’ emotions, and that is not a place where harmony can occur. This also does not mean to use this knowledge to “win” arguments. In a marriage there are no winners of arguments.

Tom-When you are married, an argument is like a chess game.

3. Be constructively honest not destructively honest.

Me-I can’t blame Tom for how I reacted, but I can tell him why I felt the need to react the way I did. And when does pointing fingers ever really help the situation? But I feel that you need to be honest about what you are going through.

Tom-Sometimes people need to hear when they are wrong, except for me, I have never been wrong before. I take that back. One time, I thought my shirt was dazzling, but it turns out it was stunning.

(And we can see where number 5 goes into affect here.)

4. Actually listen to what the other person’s concerns are.

Tom-I don’t have a funny or quippy thing to say. That covers it.

Me-How can you apply their concerns to your behavior? Are they grounded? Seriously, did you do that? Which leads to…

5. Take ownership of your own mistakes and be willing to say “I am sorry for what I did.”

Me-Sometimes acknowledging it will make things better. But don’t just sorry to say sorry. You have to mean it and be genuine about your apology. No one is perfect, we should stop trying to be. If you can’t be imperfect in front of your significant other, we have some other things to hammer out.

Tom-If I ever screw up, I assure you I will be the first to admit it. But this generally doesn’t apply to me. (My husband is not confident or anything. I think he stopped taking this seriously after number one.)

7. Understand that saying sorry doesn’t always cut it and smooth things over.

Me-Be ready to offer how the future may be different because of the lessons learned here. What can you do differently? Talk about compromise-where can both of you give in a little? You can learn from this confrontation. Learn to become a stronger unit because of it.

Tom-Sometimes it is a good idea to go down to the shoppette and get her an ICEE just in case. Do something nice.

8. Make each other laugh.

Me-Tom and I are really good at diffusing the situation and making each other giggle. (Can you tell by his responses?) This helps us clear up the angry and get back to the heart of it. And really once you start laughing, everything seems better.

Tom-It doesn’t matter where we are or what we are doing, we can always be happy.

9. Lastly, don’t let arguments linger.

Tom-If the argument goes longer than 20 minutes, I have forgotten what we were arguing about.

Me-This is Tom and I’s style. We don’t fight for days, or really hours. We hash it out and then try to move past it. I think this also goes for a time frame of when an argument is relevant. If you can’t bring up an issue in the designated window, is it really all that big of a deal?  If you draw out a fight, emotions only have time to fester and think about all the things that you thought the person said (that they never said) and reading into the situation and applying it to every encounter under the sun….Stop. This is where forgiveness begins.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

So just like a kid, say what you need to say, and then become best friends again. Be tenderhearted and forgive each other so you can grow even more in love. Understand that every day won’t be a Disney fairytale, but if you are honest and open and fearfully love each other, I think you’ll be alright (and maybe your next romantic comedy storyline). You didn’t get married because you were perfect, but because you were finally able to be imperfect.

....

I am still learning and still trying to be a better wife. Creating this list by no means makes me an expert. Just this past weekend, I will admit I did something stupid and hurt Tom with my nasty emotions. But my husband showed me some forgiveness and we talked it through. Always learning.

I am always up for more growth in this area, so what are your tips for confrontation and forgiveness?

4 thoughts on “Forgiving the Imperfect

  1. I’m a big fan of letting him speak his peace, even if he’s getting cranky or somewhat demeaning, taking a step back, breathing, validating his concerns, and waiting for the light bulb to go on that he did something wrong instead of pointing it out… makes it way easier to communicate when everyone is focusing on the same issue w/ a level head.

    And fights are never one sided. We like to think they are, but only rarely are they. Both parties probably took a misstep to make this argument happen, so admitting to it is seriously key! The rest is all about knowing how to deal w/ the other person and not pushing their buttons to the limit just to see the fireworks! I sort of agree w/ Tom (sorry dear), love is like a chess game sometimes. You have to know which piece can take which, where to move them, and how not to get checked into a corner.

  2. I think that over the years, Stephen and I have gotten really good about fighting fair. (We’ve had almost 12 years to work on it, which is lots of time to learn the hard way!) Nowadays, we are more likely to have a discussion as opposed to a fight. Chores are one of those things that we are constantly discussing. Mostly because with the Army, our roles keep changing. (Him not being deployed, reintegration, me not working, me working part time, me working full time, etc.)

    When we do have a fight, it’s often because we are dealing with a big stressor. We usually both feel better after getting everything off our chests, really hearing where the other person is coming from, and ending with a plan moving forward. I’m not ashamed to say that we’ve gone to counseling a few times. (Thankfully we’ve always been able to get help for free. Thanks, Army!) It has been a huge help and neither of us has ever regretted it. I get why there is a stigma around therapy, but couples counseling is really just a tool to help you strengthen your relationship. More people should take advantage of it!

    • I agree about the counseling, however I am biased with my counseling degree. It’s nice to hear that we aren’t the only ones who struggle with chores and the ever changing roles.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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