Last night I was talking to my dad on the phone. Somehow we started talking about some of his ticks that drive me a little crazy. The funny thing is that I too possess those same things that drive me crazy about my dad—in fact, I probably inherited them from him. My husband, listening in on our conversation, smiled and nodded his head, because he has spent many moments feeling frustrated about those same things I do!
As my husband nodded agreeing, I felt the need to highlight the fact that I wasn’t the only one in our relationship with frustrating habits or traits. But the tone of the conversation was one of laughter, acceptance, and love, as opposed to what it could have been: a cause for disharmony or even contention. Yes, those quirks can be very frustrating, but those times we joke about them also make it clear that we’re willing to accept each other’s weaknesses as well as strengths. Logan and I have just decided that we’re in it for the long run and that nothing can break our marriage commitment.
In our first year of marriage, though, we struggled to adapt to some of these same annoyances in one another. I also struggled with some personal issues that seemed to arise just because we had taken the plunge of commitment (that, frankly, I was initially afraid to make with anyone). I sometimes let fear control my thoughts and actions.
During this time, I decided to meet with a sweet South African man who happened to be the bishop of our local congregation in Utah. His counsel to me was something I could tell he had learned from experience in his own twenty five years of marriage—a marriage I admired greatly. It was a list of “do not’s in disagreements.”
The counsel he gave us is something that I still find very helpful for our relationship. These rules have made such a big impact on me and my relationship that I hope to pass this list on to my own kids when they marry.
“5 Rules for Arguing”:
- Don’t ever use name calling (jerk, etc…).
- Don’t fight about kids.
- Don’t fight about money.
- Don’t fight about sex.
And most significantly for me because of my fears and my parents’ divorce…
- Don’t ever use the “d” word (divorce).
Before he even finished his list, I basically thought that he was telling me, “Don’t fight.” And while I agreed that it would be great, I didn’t see how it was realistic apart from not talking to each other about anything we had different feelings on. In other words, his counsel seemed impossible—and unhelpful.
Nonetheless, I decided to test it out. I went home and told Logan about what he had said and we both committed to try to follow and keep the five rules.
Almost six years later, while I can’t say I’ve taken a personal evaluation to gauge how we’ve done with all five rules, with the last rule we are able to say that without fail we have not and do not use the “d” word, or refer to anything like it.
For me, following this rule is freeing. It is fear-reducing; it is faith-building; it is trusting and trust-building. It provides security for me, my husband, our relationship together, and our kids. It’s the security I’ve longed for since my own parents lost hold of it, and it’s the security that I hope ripples through the generations that come after us. And when I start to feel any fear about the future, I lean on this very security that Logan and I have built by following that simple rule.
The “d” word is not something to be treated lightly. It’s not something to throw around when you are upset. Not only are you probably manipulating or wrongly using your influence on the relationship, you are also making your relationship insecure, and probably making the “d” word a real possibility.
As the saying goes,
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
I’m grateful I learned this lesson early on in my marriage. If I had not struggled that first year, I would not have sought counsel from a seasoned person with a successful and happy marriage who could see a bit more clearly than I could at that time. Thanks to those five rules, I have come to know for myself what a powerful tool for hope and faith—and, on the contrary, for regret—our words are. I’m grateful that as a result of something hard, both my husband and I eliminated the “d” word early on from our thoughts and vocabulary. Because we changed our thoughts, now we can feel secure and know that divorce won’t be a part of our destiny.