This is still a little raw but it’s a great lesson I’ve recently learned and worth sharing. Easter Sunday should be a fairly peaceful day with family and friends, right… well not so much this year. Kirsten (my wife) and Brielle (my soon to be 13 year old daughter) had just got home from church and everything’s great. Brielle invites me into her room to show me a new poster she bought (Justin Bieber), and as she opens the door to her room she almost steps on her keyboard which is on the floor. I interrupt what we’re there for (seeing the poster) to tell her to find a better place to put the keyboard. She proceeds with the original purpose of why we’re there and doesn’t acknowledge my comment. This makes me feel there is a lack of respect, which results in my stern speech about respect, which brings her to tears.
Have you ever had the feeling that you’re wrong, right dab in the middle of proving you’re right? That’s what happened to me in Brielle’s room. While respect is important, I jumped the gun and took it out on Brielle. I knew I blew it, but I didn’t have the capacity at that moment to say so, so I left the room. Even though I knew I was wrong, I still was angry. The truth is I was already a little agitated because of an underlying issue between me and Kirsten. So like the wise man I am, I walk directly into the kitchen where Kirsten is and try to get our issue settled. We proceed to argue for about five minutes. Nothing too heated, nothing over the top… just good ole arguing :0( Well, nothing was getting settled so I walked towards our bedroom and as angry as I am at this point I have the presence of mind to apologize to Brielle. (She got wounded in friendly fire)
As I open her door she is crying profusely and she says, “Stop fighting”. Instantly I realize she has already put aside what happened between us, she was now upset by overhearing her mom and I argue. It crushed me! Here’s the back story; today and for the past four or five years, Kirsten and I are, and have been best friends… we enjoy each other’s company and rarely argue. The first 20 years is another story… that’s mostly what we did. In fact, we were divorced for 8 years before being remarried to each other. So strike one is Brielle already has some known history that her parents have separated. Strike two is that three of her friends’ parents are in the process of getting divorced. It’s all around her.
What I learned… I would not have guessed in a million years that Brielle would have even thought her mom and I would split up. It’s not even a consideration for us! But that fear was very real to her. Kirsten and I took that opportunity to promise Brielle that that would never happen. While Kirsten and I have promised that to one another, we never considered including our children in that promise. It was very meaningful!
Divorce is all around our kids today. Are yours afraid? What are they thinking? It may surprise you!
There were many years when Kirsten and I lived paycheck to paycheck (many times worse than that) and while there was no immediate impact on the relationship, over time, very subtly, a tension occurs. There’s a stress and a heaviness that weighs on the relationship. Many years when I was not a good or consistent provider, I was creating a deficit in my wife’s trust in me. It was literally creating an emotional debt in our relationship. And when something good did happen (a monetary increase) we spent it on “something” that in some way medicated that tension or stress. While that increase could have been used to pay down debt or put in savings, it instead was used to make us feel better (temporarily). The fact was, the more financial stress, the more tension there was in the relationship, the more tension there was, the more isolation there was in our relationship, and the more isolation… the less ‘good’ communication there was. Can you see the downward spiral? My buying something for Kirsten or the house or a getaway was more out of guilt than out of love. It was more out of “pain relief” than a kind gesture. We continued this cycle for many years, to the point where there was a lot of resentment and a hopeless feeling that it could never be different or better.
An extended season like the one described above can ruin a marriage! My reason for writing about this today is this…. Kirsten and I weren’t unique… we were, and are very common. There was a debt or deficit in our relationship that needed to be fixed. And the “fix” that was needed was not just a more consistent or increased income. The fix that was needed was a relational one.
If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “WOW! I’m glad I’m not that screwed up!” Check back next week. If on the other hand you can see yourself in the picture painted above. Let’s talk! The way out is closer than you think. The fact is, you must first get the dysfunction in the relationship fixed or healed before you can have a fighting chance at having an abundant, thriving marriage.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone goes through tough seasons… I’m talking to the man whose monetary provision has been sporadic over many years. The first step in solving a problem is identifying it.
PS God wants to help. :0)
It’s amazing how something a soft as sand or water can cut through something as hard as rock, but that’s exactly what happens over time. Slowly and subtly moving water can cut through a mountain and wind-blown sand can carve a valley. Relationships are very similar to this. If you’ve been married for a few years or more, you’ve had arguments or “heated discussions”… ok let’s be real… you’ve fought. And with each of the fights there is a residual substance that’s left behind. Many times we fight, make up and move on, but when the fight centers around a recurring issue people get tired, expectations get reset (for the worst) and the next time you have an argument it’s worse or compounded. Why? Because of the residue left behind.
You could point to it and call it unforgiveness, but I think it’s a lot more subtle than that. What is it that you have argued about more than a couple of times? What topic immediately turns heated because it’s already smoldering from past arguments? See very clearly the damage and erosion this residue causes in your own heart the same way waters and sand destroy a mountain. Can you spot some residue? If so, acknowledge it and call on The Great Physician to wash your heart clean today.