My husband had hurt my feelings. Something he said made me feel like I wasn’t a priority, like my opinion wasn’t valued in our relationship. Instead of mentioning it right away, I let it sit. In my head, there could only be two scenarios and they made my blood boil.
“Either you don’t care about what I’d like or you didn’t think it was necessary to consult me before making that big of a decision!” I erupted.
There was a pause and my husband responded.
“Couldn’t you think of a situation in which you give me the benefit of the doubt?” he asked. The question hung in the air. I felt terrible.
When we were dating I explained to my husband that I tend to say things that can be taken two ways. Generally, I don’t try to be unkind, so people who know me know that if something can be interpreted negatively or postively, they should assume the kinder interpretation. I explained to my husband that I’m a person who needs to be given the benefit of the doubt. His response was, “I know your heart. I know how to take what you say.” I can’t begin to explain the relief that washed over me upon hearing those words.
But here we are, a few years into marriage, and there are times that we no longer give each other the courtesy of the benefit of the doubt. Is it because we know each other’s weaknesses so intimately? Is it because we’ve hurt each other? Or maybe it’s because we want to find fault in the other so it looks like we are right. Whatever the reason, it’s doing us no good.
In marriage we know our partner, inside and out. We know their weaknesses and they can irk us day in and day out. In fact, I think this focus on my husband’s weaknesses is part of why I make unfair assumptions about my husband’s intentions, I know my husband’s weaknesses and assume he is tending toward them.
Time for another experiment.
So that’s why I have decided to refocus on my husband’s strengths. I have made a list of five of my husband’s strengths, five things I really appreciate about him. This exercise has shown me that some of these strengths balance the weaknesses. For example, his levelheadedness is something I appreciate. Therefore, when I get frustrated with his lack of empathy and emotion, I can remind myself that I do appreciate how level headed he is when I need him to balance me out. Some things on the list are just things I like about him, like his butt. Just kidding. That’s not really on my list… but he does have a nice butt!
Every morning and every night I’m going to run through my list to remind myself of his strengths. I’m sure it won’t take long to commit it to memory. Wouldn’t it be nice if your spouse had a list of your strengths memorized? When a situation arises and I get frustrated with my husband’s actions I’m going to refresh myself on his strengths and decide if he was possibly acting from a point of strength, instead of weakness. But even if I can’t find one of his strengths buried within his frustrating behavior, I’m going to ask him his motivation before assuming it was one of his weaknesses rearing it’s ugly head again.
This is common courtesy, really. It’s how I’d like to be treated. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Your spouse is a good person, remember? You married them!