I don’t love conflict, but when it comes to friction, annoyances, or relationship discontent, my motto has always been the same as Shrek’s: “Better out than in.”
If something my husband is doing bothers me, I’ve always figured it’s better to be open about how I’m feeling and confront him right away. After all, if I try to stuff the irritant down or ignore it, the feelings are likely to build up until a simple frustration becomes an ugly outburst.
But lately I’m rethinking the whole philosophy in favor of a new Disney motto: “Let it go.”
Husband forgot to do his dishes before bedtime? Let it go. Husband executes a driving maneuver I disapprove of? Take a deep breath and let it go. Husband eats an entire sleeve of cookies over the course of an afternoon? Keep your thoughts to yourself and make a mental note not to keep sweets in the house–for the good of all, let’s be honest.
I’m learning that there’s a difference between suppressing frustrations and setting them free. If I just bite my tongue and keep it all inside, I haven’t dealt with the issue. I’ll probably keep running over it in my head until I explode. No good.
But if I make a conscious decision to release my feelings and show grace to my husband, that’s something else entirely. Choosing to forgive, forget and move on lets him off the hook—and frees up space in my head for more important things.
This philosophy doesn’t just work for relationships. I live near a busy city with lots of obnoxious drivers, and I realized recently that much of my time in the car is spent steaming mad at the clueless guy in front of me who cut me off or the angry-looking lady who wouldn’t let me over. But my irritation is a choice; I can choose to breathe deep and clear my head, instead of letting my anger fester.
Obviously, not everything should be let go. If there’s an issue affecting your relationship, don’t overlook that; address it. If there’s something your spouse or loved one does that they should really know about, tell him. If he doesn’t realize how loudly he’s chewing his gum, chances are his friends have noticed too and you’re doing him a favor by pointing it out. When in doubt, I’m still a proponent of getting problems into the open and clearing the air.
But if you’re like me and confrontation is your go-to, try letting the small things go and see what happens.
I recently heard a story about an old woman who had been married for many years. Someone asked her what her secret was, and she said she had decided to make a list of five annoying things her husband did that he would get a pass on.
When asked what was on the list, she admitted that she had never gotten around to writing it down.
“Whenever my husband did something that irritated me, I just assumed it was one of the things on the list,” she said.
That’s the kind of grace I want my husband to have for me. And that’s inspiring me to practice letting go.