After fifteen long days, my husband David was coming home again. I hadn’t imagined that his absence on a work trip would lead to one of the sweetest and most tender moments of our married life together, but it did.
I saw his forest green Honda Accord pull up, with its familiar dents from a hailstorm years ago. The kids and I rushed to the door. And then he walked in.
I can’t really do the moment justice without sounding like I’m writing some Hallmark movie. But in all honesty, everything about that moment of reunion seemed sunlit. We just couldn’t stop beaming at each other and counting our blessings.
“You are my best friend,” David said, later that afternoon as we were just sitting and enjoying each other’s company.
We held each other tight and were quiet for a bit, listening to the happy sounds of our kids in the background, playing some game they invented that involved throwing stuffed animals in the air.
“Doesn’t it feel like we will never argue again?” David asked.
“I was just about to say the same thing,” I said. “I just really can’t imagine arguing. We are such good friends!”
The time apart had given us a renewed sense of appreciation for each other. But as beautiful as it was to be reunited, it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves arguing again. About a week later we were in an old familiar disagreement—one of those that makes you feel like you are having déjà vu because you know you’ve been in this argument before.
The balloon was burst; the happy spell of that afternoon a week earlier had worn off.
Of course, we hadn’t really expected to never argue again. As a marriage counselor told us once, it’s not realistic to expect that you will never have arguments. The goal is to reduce those arguments so that over time you are arguing less and less and understanding each other more and more. So if we argue weekly, a starting goal might be to get to the point where we are only arguing twice a month.
Even though we had an argument, I noticed how much better we were handling it then we have been in the past. Over the years, we have learned to respond to each other in healthier ways. Specifically, there are two things that my dear husband did this time around that I don’t think he would have done even a year ago, that helped our argument turn into a constructive conversation.
First, he did something that reminded us both of our friendship. I was raising my voice, getting agitated, and he responded by saying, “Let’s take a break and watch some Jim Gaffigan.” I mustered a half-smile and acquiesced. Five minutes later David and I were laughing together.
This break helped me calm down, but later in the evening I was still upset because the argument had not been resolved, just side-stepped.
So, second, David invited me to share my feelings, and he promised not to judge or get defensive, but to just listen. David sensed that there was an underlying issue in the argument, the root cause that needed to be addressed.
“Do you want to just go sit and talk about this underlying issue for fifteen minutes? We can each share our feelings about it, but there is no pressure for us to solve it right now. Let’s just talk about it together,” he said.
We sat with tea and talked and found that we were both actually wrestling with the same problem and same questions, just in different ways. Those different responses were causing tension, but sharing what we were feeling with each other helped us to recognize that we were together on this.
So even in the span of a week, marriage will have its sunlit moments, and its grey ones. But we can grow in both of these kinds of situations, the light and the shade alike helping us to get a clearer picture of who we are together.