Sure enough, after a very long, emotionally draining day, I lost my cool with Vicky and got really angry – angry enough to yell and leave the house. That rarely happens to me – but it does happen, and it did happen.
In this particular case last night, I really was embarrassed at how I lost my cool. Almost all of my kids were there, two of my kids on their way out the door to go back to Chicago, Michael going up to bed, and of course, my oldest son Bobby is going to be married in a couple days. I normally do not embarrass myself. Others might be embarrassed for me some of the time, but it’s rare for me to be ashamed of the way I acted. Last night was one of the moments where I was in that kind of rare form.
So, I yell, storm out of the house, and drive away to … a gas station. I had to get gas anyway.
I have left the house angry only a couple times in the last 25 years…and same for Vicky. We have had many arguments, but few that would cause either of us to leave the house.
Arguments are a part of life. Those who are closest to us can make us the most upset. The better we know each other the easier it is to know exactly what buttons to push. As spouses we get to see each other at our absolute worst and most unlovable – most folks don’t get that privilege.
While I wish I would have kept my cool better last night, it is a great opportunity to talk about arguments and fighting in marriage. It’s gonna happen. In fact, if it does not, it may not be a sign of a healthy marriage.
Following are some arguing principles I have discovered over the years:
- You are going to argue. You are going to annoy the heck out of each other sometime. You are going to say and do hurtful things sometimes. It’s part of life
- Be aware of what things you do to annoy your spouse and try to reduce that behavior. Your spouse has to let you know (hopefully lovingly) what it is that annoys them. Trying to bury your annoyance at a bad habits or poor use of words, etc., is not love. It will eventually cause bigger problems.
- How you handle stressful situations is very important. You will have them. If you have kids – you will have more. Vicky and I have learned how to handle stress much better in our marriage as time has gone on. Our biggest issues are when we do not express stress in healthy ways that we end up in what I would call a secondary argument (see next principle)
- H.A.L.T. – If you are hungry (mostly the guys), angry (had a bad day outside of your context with your spouse), if you are lonely, or if you are tired – do not engage in serious discussions about anything. HALT! Hungry – Angry – Lonely – Tired. I so need to get better at this. When I am one of these four, it’s almost a guarantee I am going to pick a fight with someone I love – who wasn’t really looking for a fight.
- Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Great biblical principle. Vicky and I have never spent more than an hour or two alone after one of us has stormed out of the room/house. Don’t do it. It’s OK to have a cool down period – and sometimes necessary – but do not let it last more than an hour or two.
- Do not confuse the principle of don’t go to bed angry, with having to completely resolve all issues before bed. I am famous for this one. Serious issues need to be discussed when you are fresh and not tired (remember HALT?). Some of my finest moments are when I am able to tell Vicky I love her and that we can resolve the particular issue later – and go to bed snuggling – and – not wake up mad. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but I am slowly getting little better at this!
- Be willing to apologize. I had to suck it up and apologize last night. There was no excuse for my behavior. I owned it. It may have taken about 50 mad texts back and forth from the gas station parking lot, but I eventually apologized for my part 🙂
Just for the record, for my Christian brothers and sisters out there, the idea or concept of biblical submission has NEVER come up, not even one time, in our 25 years of marriage. I believe the idea of wives submitting to their husbands is a cultural quirk mentioned in the Bible, and not how God intends it to be for life at its best. We have intelligent compromise and have never had an issue we could not resolve ourselves. Of course, that leads to the last principle.
- If you do hit an impasse, you need to bring in a neutral third-party who cares about both of you. Getting counseling is a sign that you value your marriage and relationship. Many times we need help outside of ourselves. No one goes into these things being an expert, and just because you are a follower of Jesus you are not exempt from needing help. God gives us good friends and access to marriage counselors because we may very well need it from time to time. If you do, if you even think you do, collaborate on it and get it done. Respect each other’s wishes in this.
Life is so short. I am going to a life celebration service later today for a friend of mine who passed after an 8 year battle with cancer. Life is precious. Our relationships are precious. Our marriages are precious. Let’s argue well, argue less, and learn from the mistakes and build stronger marriages in the process. You won’t regret it!