Picking your battles!

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Although the primary message of this saying is that mom’s attitude affects the whole family, I think a secondary message is just as significant.  If a wife conveys to her husband through her constant complaints and criticisms that she’s not happy, her husband begins to feel like a failure and starts to close his heart to her.

Unfortunately, many wives get stuck in this dynamic.  We tend to point out one disappointment after another to our husbands.  We remind him that we notice he forgot to take out the garbage.  We point out that he hasn’t communicated in our love language recently.  We remind him that he hasn’t played with the kids in a while.  In short, we can’t seem to resist pointing out his flaws.  Adding insult to injury, we then get really upset that he seems emotionally withdrawn from us!

Perhaps it’s time to pick our battles more carefully.  Maybe we should let the small stuff slide.  Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”  Let’s ask God to help us affirm what our husbands do right, overlook the small imperfections, and only confront our husbands if they are truly sinning against us and/or the children. EVERYBODY in the family will be happier!

Defusing argument before it can start

I’m on a journey of learning how to do relationships in a healthier, God-directed way!  I don’t know about you, but when I get really disappointed in my husband or anybody, I tend to go in one of two unhealthy directions.  1) I avoid the potential conflict entirely by clamming up, putting up an ice shield, and then spiraling down into toxic resentment or 2) I let my tongue run wild and blast the person with both barrels!  Neither one of these options yields good results.

God’s way is so much different and better!  He says in Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Gentle words.  Gentle words.  Gentle words.  I need to remind myself of this!  God is saying that we can avoid a nasty argument if we speak gently and kindly and maybe even assume the best about the other person instead of giving full vent to our anger.

I got to practice this a little while ago.  My husband was really stressed as we were on a long-distance drive.  I was attempting to help with googling a gas station, but my phone ran out of data.  Ugh.  Then he started getting really sharp with me in his tone.  I mean…REALLY sharp.  I felt disrespected.  And oh boy, I decided that I didn’t deserve that tone and that I was going to tell him what a jerk he was.  Yeah, pastor’s wives don’t always have gracious thoughts apparently. Sigh.

Anyway, somehow God got my attention before I blasted him and God reminded me of Proverbs 15:1.  So, I bit my tongue until we got all the way home, and as my husband was about to exit the car, I turned to him, laid a hand softly on his arm and said gently, “I know you love me and you would never intend to hurt me, but the way you talked to me back there was not okay.  Please don’t talk to me like that again.”  And that was that.  No big blow-up.  He didn’t feel condemned because I affirmed that I know he loves me.  With God’s prompting, I was able to defuse the nasty argument before it could start.  Gentle words.  Gentle words. Gentle words.  Let’s all remember that!

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Try this game-changer during conflict

Conflict and disagreement is inevitable in marriage.  However, conflict need not lead to the formation of two enemy camps!  Here’s something that can greatly change the dynamics during conflict and actually move you closer to resolution.  Pause and ask God to help you see the situation through your husband’s eyes. Ask the Lord to show you what is truly prompting your husband to say what he’s saying or do what he’s doing. Is he stressed?  Is he discouraged?  Is he still affected by emotional wounds from his childhood?  Does he simply have a different idea on how something should be done, and could his idea actually make sense?

When we intentionally pause and try to consider the vantage point of our husbands, we begin to have compassion, or at least an understanding of why he is thinking or acting the way he is. Instead of only focusing on our desires, Philippians 2:4 instructs us, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When you truly stop and try to look at the situation from his perspective, you may see some actual merit to your husband’s point of view!  You might also start to realize how your husband’s past hurts in life (or current fears) are playing a role in his actions or reactions.

When we ask Jesus to help us see the situation through our husband’s eyes, we start to soften and feel compassion.  As we have compassion and understanding, it will be much easier to compromise or find resolution.  Try it!

Handling marital disagreements

It’s vital for you and your spouse to come into agreement on the major issues within your marriage, such as finances, parenting, time spent on recreation, frequency of sex, etc.  You must come into agreement because division in a marriage often leads to the eventual collapse of that marriage.  God’s word even states this.  In Matthew 12:25, Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

So, what should you do if you and your spouse are consistently divided in a specific area?  Don’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up!  Decide to respectfully, but thoroughly, discuss the issue with your husband.  Ask God for the right timing and ask God to prepare your heart and your husband’s heart for the conversation ahead.  The goal is to reach a compromise that you can both support.  And, if you can’t reach such a compromise on your own, then seek help from a pastor, counselor, or mentor couple.  Do whatever you need to do to come into agreement with your husband on this issue.  It will bring peace to you, your marriage, and your household!

P.S.  If the disagreement stems from your husband wanting to do something immoral, then compromise isn’t the right option!  In that case, you will likely want to see help from a counselor or pastor, and you may have to establish boundaries in the relationship.

Aim for this goal during conflict

It’s natural during disagreement with our husbands to believe you’re right, he’s wrong, and you must convince him of that!  However, if we stay stuck in that mindset, the battle only heats up.  He gets defensive.  You get defensive.  Usually, the situation either evolves into yelling and ugly accusations or a silent, but deadly cold war.  There is a better way and it begins with rethinking your end goal.

What if your goal was not to “win” the argument or change his mind?  What if the goal was to reach a compromise or solution that addresses the biggest concerns of you both?  Seriously. Think about it. Now you both win and there are no losers.  This means that you both agree to consider the other person’s perspective, fears, values, and concerns.  From there, you begin to present ideas that might address both of your main concerns.  Philippians 2:4 reminds us “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

So, the next time you and your husband start to have a significant disagreement, suggest that you would like to sit down together and better understand his perspective and concerns.  Then gently share your concerns, and ask him to join you in brainstorming a solution or compromise that would be the best fit for both of you.