I get together with a few other moms every month to talk about life, laugh, cry, share feelings, drink wine, pray. Ya know. Mom friend stuff. And recently, one of the moms asked me half-jokingly-but-not-really, “do you guys ever fight?” Cue awkward silence. Well, not really awkward because we’re friends. But just silence. It took me aback and I had to think. Sure, we disagree or have differing opinions sometimes. And sure, we each get frustrated sometimes. But full on fight? Not really anymore. We used to “fight…” We didn’t have huge, explosive blow outs because we’re both pretty non-confrontational. Which means our fights were more the silent type. Conversation escalating in intensity but quiet. Lots of silence. Lots of gaps. Eventually, someone would excuse themselves. More silence. Hurt feelings. Until someone (me) cried or made excuses or said sorry.
Speaking of apologizing and excuses – we’ve both learned to apologize like this:
“I’m sorry I did _________.” or “I’m sorry I said ________.”
See the periods? I’m sorry [period.]
“I’m sorry it hurt your feelings when _________.”
“I’m sorry you think __________.”
Or, “I’m sorry I did _______ but….”
Just, “I’m sorry I _______.” [period.]
It’s really hard. Especially when you’re sure you’re always right like me. But it’s humbling to just really actually 100% apologize. [gulp.] Try it.
Anyway, we’re coming up on our 6th anniversary, and I’m not really sure when it happened, but sometime in the past few years, we stopped arguing like I previously described.
I hadn’t really thought about it or noticed it until my friend asked, and I couldn’t think of the last time we truly fought. So, I started thinking – why? Why not? Why don’t we fight anymore?
Well, mostly grace.
Actually… it’s all grace.
Specifically, though, grace for learning to communicate in ways that don’t hurt each other and grace to become more understanding of each other’s differences. I’m going to try not to be vague and not to ramble. Stay with me. 🙂
I’ve written before about how we had a steep learning curve in the communicating-with-your-spouse department. I was a terrible listener (read: self-centered) & he was accustomed to people who listened (read: his mom is a therapist). He processes internally, I process externally. The list of our differences goes on. I wrote about those things in this other post.
But, in the hospital after having our 3rd baby, a few weeks after my friend asked the question, it dawned on me why we don’t really fight anymore.
I’ll tell you the conversation that gave me the “ah-ha.” But for it to make sense, you need to know… Throughout my pregnancy with Elliot, we talked a lot about whether he’d be our last bio kid or not. Neither of us have ever had a magic number of kids we hoped to have. Also, with our own miscarriage and the various pregnancy complications, infertility struggles, and infant loss we’ve seen friends experience, we realized we had less control in the family planning department than we might have originally thought. We consider foster care and/or adoption options for growing our family in the future, and we’re both pretty open to what the Lord wants for our family. I lean towards “meh, what’s another baby?” and Ben leans towards, “um, another baby is a lot of work and an additional child, not a meh. Let’s be done.” Neither of us is ready to do anything permanent, seeing as how we’re not even 30, but throughout the pregnancy, for a variety of reasons we leaned towards thinking of Elliot as likely our last bio kid.
So fast forward to the day after giving birth. Here was the “ah-ha” conversation.
Ben and I are in our recovery room. My hormones are going whacko – I’m starving (3 large meals immediately after giving birth) & soooo thirsty (100 ounces of water in a matter of a couple hours and still soooo thirsty). Weepy but full of joy. Laughing and crying at the same time. Just. So. Hormonal. With my second 2 kids, especially, I’ve experienced a semi-delusional euphoria of sorts the first few days after giving birth.
So we’re in the recovery room and Elliot is sleeping on me, and I start to think – I can’t believe he’s our last. I love this. I want 100 more. I start to say something to Ben, who is concentrating on something else work related, but get all choked up. I can barely get out the words.
And in a really quiet, tearful choked up voice I whisper, “I don’t know if I want this to be our last…”
[Insert what you think Ben’s response is….]
All he said was: “I know.”
He said it nicely, and sincerely.
Just – “I know.”
No big discussion about how we’d basically agreed he’s our last.No reminders that I had agreed that I would soak up the good parts of pregnancy – the kicks, and heartbeats and second trimester energy. No reminders that I can have my post-baby euphoria but I’d promised to think of this as my last and not get too emotional.
Just – “I know.”
Y’all. This is it. This is why we don’t really fight over every little thing. Because we have each learned when it’s time to have a real conversation about something hard or something we might disagree on, and when it’s time to just let the other person vent or say their thing without a big discussion.
I just let my happy euphoric postpartum hormonal tears flow and Ben smiled and said, “He’s great isn’t he?”
And a few minutes later, that was that. And that’s when it dawned on me – we both just let the other person say things like that without a big to-do. Sometime in the last few years, we’ve gone from trying to have big conversations in moments like that to experiencing 100% safety to say what we think and feel and the other person just kinda picking up on whether or not it’s the right time to repsond or elaborate on the discussion.
Within 24 hours of giving birth – not the time for a big family planning conversation. I wasn’t trying to start one and Ben knew that. And he knew not to go on and on about it. He could tell I was just having some big feelings, so he just let me have them.
That’s the key. I don’t know when we figured that out about each other… but at some point, we learned to give each other grace in these types of potentially-fight-causing conversations.
Had Ben said, “Well wait a minute, we agreed he’d be our last. Remember? You’re supposed to be enjoying this but not thinking about more babies… no more babies, we agreed!” For sure we would have argued. My feelings would have been crushed and who knows what we would have fought about but I’m sure it would have exploded.
But he knew it was me saying my momentary feelings, not back-tracking on all our previous conversations and decisions, and not really trying to bring up the conversation about family planning again. Just verbally expressing all my big postpartum baby-loving euphoria. And he gets that.
It goes both ways.
As I started to think about how huge this is for us not fighting anymore, I thought about all the times Ben has come home from work and said something outlandish. He’s a visionary, a dreamer. I’m more like UPS – I love plans, details, logistics.
Ben would come home from grad school classes and say things like, “Let’s stay in Boston and do a startup!” or, “I want to apply for this awesome job in San Francisco.”
Or be super excited about an article he read and say, “I read this awesome article and instead of getting a job with a salary, let’s do this risky business idea instead! We can put off financial stability for a few more years, right?”
These huge statements used to make my heart race.
I would feel instantly stressed and start saying things like, “um that’s irrational.” or “what about this other plan we made?” or “How will that work? That will never work! We’d have to do x and y and z….”
And Ben would instantly feel like I was crushing his dreams.
We both laugh about it now. Because now he’ll randomly say something like, “I have this awesome idea…”
And I’ll just say, “Sure. What’s the opportunity?”
He can have his moment to enjoy the dreaming and visions, and I just know that it’s not a real discussion. If it is a real discussion, we approach it differently. When we were actually deciding what to do after he finished grad school, we sat down calmly (most of the time) and intentionally to talk about where we actually wanted to consider living. Which locations were really on the table.
And when Ben legitimately wanted to consider the west coast as a post grad school option, he brought it up at a time when it was just us and we had some time to talk about it. Not during after dinner dishes with a toddler running around screaming in the background. (And no, we’re not considering moving right now. These are past tense examples.)
We each set up big conversations like this now: “Hey, I want to talk about xyz with you. Want to talk about it tomorrow after the kids go to bed or on our date this weekend?”
Like I said, I don’t really know when or how this understanding evolved. It just did. And it’s a huge reason we don’t really fight anymore.
The other big reason is we’re both quicker to apologize than we used to be (see humbling examples above… gulp.) and we both just let the little stuff go. Not perfectly, and not all the time. But mostly.
1 Cor 13 – “Love is not easily irritable.” I blogged about that a couple years ago, at a time when I was VERY easily irritable. Those words jumped off the page of 1 Corinthians and the Lord told me – you just need to stop being easily irritable with your family. It’s unloving.
Bam. It’s not that I’m never irritable now, but honestly, I said, “okay,” when God told me that & the Holy Spirit has helped me become a lot less irritable than I used to be. Not perfectly, but increasingly.
So, it’s not even that we don’t fight anymore ever. But I just can’t remember the arguments for very long anymore. It’s possible that the mind-numbing monotony of staying home with 3 children under the age of 3 ½ is killing my brain cells slowly. But it’s also possible that we’re quicker to let things go. Quicker to say, “I’m sorry.” And quicker to realize when the other person is just expressing big feelings and when it’s time to have a big conversation about something we disagree about. And when the timing is right, and you’re choosing not to get easily irritated, it’s a lot easier to discuss big things and things we disagree about without it escalating into a big fight.
What do you think?
Can you think of times where your spouse is trying to express BIG FEELINGS but not have a big conversation? Or maybe I’m nuts and we’re the only ones with big feels 😉