Giving Thanks For Conflict


November is a month when we’re reminded to be thankful, and so each night my family lists off different things we’re grateful for. These lists usually involve our kids, my job, our home—you know the good things we pretty much always recognize as gifts. But today I said thanks for a less likely candidate. I said ‘Thank You’ for the conflicts in my marriage.

Before I got married, I assumed that my wife Kara and I would have the normal conflicts that come with the territory. Things like the budget, or time at work, or talking about feelings. I never would have guessed that one of our bigger fights, and one of the greatest opportunities for growth, would be over carbon monoxide. To be fair, it’s hard to see this one coming, the gas is odorless, silent and invisible. But that didn’t stop it from driving a wedge into our relationship right before we left for, what was supposed to be, a relaxing family weekend.

Before our fight I had no idea that Kara was scared of carbon monoxide. In general Kara is a lot more safety conscious than I am. I have a hard enough time getting worked up about the dangers I can see, and so this threat was just not on my radar. We’d taken the basic precautions with detectors and a child proof stove, but that’s all the thought I’ve given carbon of any kind in the last five years. So I was surprised when Kara called me to tell me the carbon monoxide detector was picking up gas.

I was out with friends on a rare guy’s night, and Kara called to let me know that we had some gas in the home. It was reading significant levels, but not enough to set off the alarm, and we had just been using the stove. Still, it wasn’t entirely clear what we should do. I made a few suggestions, and was honestly not at all helpful. When she didn’t seem satisfied, but also didn’t want to continue the conversation I told her I’d see her later and hung up. When I got home I found out that was the wrong response.

We both went to bed mad and the next morning things hadn’t improved, so Kara and I decided to do the hard work of hashing things out. At first neither of us would apologize for anything, but as we talked it started to become clear that a deeper issue was that Kara wanted me to take care of her and protect her. With this issue in particular, she wanted to feel supported. I was upset because I didn’t feel like I was given a chance to support her, and after my, admittedly, unhelpful remarks she ended the conversation without giving me a chance to be the knight in shining armor she wanted me to be. Neither of us handled the situation as well as we could of, and in the end we both apologized for the things we did wrong, and we knew each other a little bit better.

And this is why I’m thankful for conflicts. Kara and I aren’t always on the same page, and we never will be, but we both want to grow closer together. We want our love to grow, and we want to anticipate each other’s needs. And when we fight fairly, and see arguments not as something to win, but as a problem to be solved together, this is exactly what happens. I learn more about Kara’s heart and she learns more about mine. Every relationship is a work in progress, and that work isn’t always easy, but thankfully with the help of a few conflicts I know that each year I’ll love Kara a little bit better than the year before!

Photo: Flickr/ Loren Kerns

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