16 plus years ago, when my husband and I were first dating, we agreed on everything. We had the same shared interests, the same opinions on things, the same likes and dislikes. But did we really? Anyone with common sense knows when you start a relationship you are on your best behavior. As we prefer to show one side of our profile in photographs so we show a one-dimensional image to our partners in the beginning, our best side. We are on alert for anything that would show us in our true light and try to curb those quirky little habits that we secretly hope are endearing, but know he may find annoying.
So in a way, we lie. We might like to tell ourselves it doesn’t count, it’s only a white lie, but the truth is, it does count. What happens when you cannot maintain the pretence any more and your true self rears its ugly face? Well if you’re lucky, by that time they’re so besotted with you that they are willing to take the good with the bad, and if not, then, when all is said and done, we’ve had a lucky escape.
It has been said that if 2 people agree on everything then one of them is unnecessary. Could there be any truth in that statement? In my opinion, yes. Healthy conflict and an airing of issues can be good for a relationship. Whilst the first flush of romance is wonderful, a heady fall into love and moonlight, something wonderful can be said for a romance that has stood the test of time. You may no longer agree with your partner on everything but I would assert that’s a good thing. Relationships where people and opinions differ can be wonderful too as long as you still have that shared love in common.
It may not be the butterflies in the stomach, or the heart skipping a beat every time they walk into sight, but it is a longer lasting safe and secure love that is just as valid, based on the shared experiences of life, such as first homes, and children and shared bad times too.
Before my husband and I were married I worked part-time in a Christian book shop to supplement my college fees, this gave me ample opportunity to read up on some Christian marriage books. Well, you wouldn’t go into an exam unprepared would you? Some of these books were very helpful in listing some of the issues we might face as newly married. As a smitten newlywed I was pretty much sure our love could surmount anything.
I soon had the blinkers taken off my eyes. Not only didn’t we have shared interests but I wasn’t even sure I liked him sometimes! One of the issues the marriage books dealt with was unexploded bombs. Not in the literal sense of course although you could have been forgiven for thinking our first home looked like it. It meant emotional unexploded bombs, those issues that every married couple face but are too thorny to solve so they are left buried beneath the surface ready to pop to the surface at inappropriate times.
Or they become history, ie they literally get dragged up every time an argument ensues whether it has something to do with it or not. You might be rowing about whose turn it is to put the rubbish out( it’s always the mans in case you’re wondering) and all of a sudden a little extra ingredient gets thrown into the mix such as “You’ve always been lazy, I remember the time viewers were coming to the house and I had to clean the whole house from top to bottom in half an hour”(if only). See? The row began about the bins and has now escalated to something else because that something else was never dealt with. It’s an unexploded bomb just waiting to be rediscovered.
It’s a lot easier saying all this 16 years down the line than it would have been at the beginning. Every marriage, however good it is, has these hidden resentments that need to be aired and resolved. But learning how to resolve conflict comes with time and experience. I have now been married longer than my own parents were. I come from a background where divorce was very prevalent and my husband comes from the opposite background. This has made for some what are now amusing times but they weren’t always like that.
I don’t need to go into the different ways men and women are wired but we really are polar opposites. When we were first married, my husband would not row with me. This was due to his own upbringing. But I found it infuriating to the degree our rows would escalate as I tried to provoke him into a slanging match. After about a year of this I got my wish but boy did I regret it. All of a sudden my mild-mannered husband got cross and fired back. We had some fine upstanding rows which all ended with him slamming the door and driving off for a few hours to calm down. Well, as I don’t drive this would mind me up more because he could escape from the situation and the children and I could not. So I would yell (poor neighbours and poor kids) “Don’t bother coming home then” and I meant it.
For about half an hour I desperately meant it. I felt numb and convinced we were better off apart. But slowly and surely when I would allow God to soften my heart I would be remorseful and wishing him home. I do recall one funny time when he was so cross he decided he would camp out in the woods one night and try to shoot a pigeon for his supper, Bear Grylls style!
As we have been married longer and endured some tough times and learnt the way each other ticks, our arguing and conflict has taken on a different hue. The Elton John song alluded to in my blog title says “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” but in reality when you love someone and want the best for them it isn’t.
The biggest difference in our marriage is I have learned to say sorry (fine thing for a Christian I know). Sometimes It has been said through gritted teeth. The reason sorry is hard to say is because of our pride. We have been hurt and we want to parade it over our partners and make them pay but it only hurts ourselves more.
THe bible speaks about not letting the sun go down on your anger, in other words don’t go to bed angry. This is a good recommendation from the heart of a loving Father who knows that if we go to bed angry and savour our resentments then the next time it will be easier to repeat the process. Before you know it a marriage that was mostly fine will become a chasm that is too difficult to cross. And with hearts that are hardened we wont be convinced we want to anyway.
Please do yourself a favour, where possible as the bible says “try to live at peace with everyone”. Now God isn’t stupid , he knew some people would know just how to press our buttons. The benefit of saying sorry is for us because it frees up our spirit and emotions. And it’s probably best to limit the time you spend with these people if you can. If it is your partner try and remember the things that brought you together in the first place, don’t let the flame go out.
I’ll let you into a secret. sometimes I have apologised for things I didn’t really think were my fault but because I was willing to humble myself it cleared the air with my husband anyway. Be willing to take the blame even if you don’t feel you were. Marriage is not about scoring points. My husband is my best friend because we take the time to communicate. This did not happen overnight. And I’ll let you into another secret, sometimes he says sorry too when he is in the right.
Till next time.