When you first start dating, you are so head over heels infatuated that you never notice people’s subtle flaws. They are in every observable aspect, perfect. Your heart is so full of raw untamed emotions that the object of your desire cannot, (and most certainly will not) offend you. Our story was no different. For months there wasn’t a cross word between us. It was all smiles, and kissing, and long walks, and sweet words. Thank God we stayed together long enough to move beyond such an immature and unrealistic understanding of love and romance and we eventually got real enough to fight. What did we fight about? Lord knows, I don’t remember! I don’t really know why we fight these days. But I know we did, and that sometimes, we still do. I remember one particular fight; we were parked out front of my parents’ home. She had been distant and for one reason or another was pushing me away, I knew she was trying her best to get me to break up with her. I remember looking her in the eyes, and calmly saying “I know what you are trying to get me to do, but you’re going to have to do your own dirty work. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going anywhere”.
Ahh, the dating years. For me that started as early as fourth grade, so when I say I don’t miss them, I’m really not kidding. Yeah yeah, we all know that elementary school ‘dating’ doesn’t really count, but I started giving my heart away to boys as young as that, so in a way for me, it does count. Somewhere in my life time I started becoming fearful of good things; of things going too smoothly, of blessings actually remaining, and of life being OKAY. Because of that, I would often do things to sabotage situations. We could get into a whole bunch of psychological reasons WHY that was, but that’s not what this post is about. Before I met Asa, I went through a LOT of heart ache, and a lot of grief (even, some serious trauma.) I remember when we were dating I started to feel like ‘this could be it.’ He could be the guy, but I wasn’t sure that God would bless me THAT well. He made me so happy and laugh so hard. He was hopelessly romantic and charming, and he never pushed boundaries with me. Because of all of those amazing things, I started to panic. I remember the exact fight he referenced above…and how I felt so confused inside because I was so mad at him, yet he was remaining so CALM. I didn’t want him to go, I didn’t want things to be over, but I wanted to be angry and I thought surely that meant we were going to have to break up. I probably said some hateful things, told him that I was angrier than I really even was, and I could feel myself TRYING to get him to call it quits! (Is there anyone else reading this that has self-sabotage tendencies?! It’s a legit thing and if you have ever experienced and worked through it…you know it’s not fun for ALL parties involved.) Bless my husband.
It was a bold move, not typical of my insecurities. I was often terrified that I would scare her away and find myself alone. But in that moment, she collected herself, and by God, we worked through it. Couples fight, I believe it is human nature. Honestly, I think most of our fights happen when we are both exhausted emotionally, and something small finally sets off our anger. From there we usually hash out so many various thoughts, emotions, and even bring up previous fights. The small seemingly insignificant trigger is somehow lost in this new fight, and it feels like all-out battle. Early in our relationship we fought, and fought pretty dirty. One of us has a propensity to be loud, one of us looks for cutting and biting words to hurt, not to heal. There have been fights with cussing, and storming out. There have been doors slammed, and shamefully a few fights in front of our children. There have been fights that never should have been fights at all. But in all of that, we had to learn the Rules of Engagement. There is one very simple truth we are both trying to grasp when we fight, “I’m not going anywhere…marriage is forever. So how do I make this right?”
Working through that fight in the car led to working through more fights, and ultimately, us fighting less. Asa is right though, there have some pretty big and bad ones. We’ve even invited a couple from church to help us navigate through one of our worst ones (talk about humbling…..) because we really weren’t sure how to snap out of it. Me especially with that one, felt blood boiling MAD and almost as if I could never forgive him for ‘causing’ me to get that angry. But somewhere along mediating through that, I KNEW…our marriage is forever. I wasn’t going to leave, I wasn’t going to call it quits; there was no ‘breaking up’ option anymore. Our first year of marriage though, we didn’t HAVE rules of engagement—we had to figure out what they were. In the middle of one of our arguments, I felt trapped and angry and like I wanted to escape. So I did. I got in the car and drove to his big sister’s house (laughing remembering this) and I was a bucket of tears and rage. She of course told Asa I was there, and when I got home that night, I promised to never leave in my anger again. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever WANT to leave…it just means that I respect my husband and our marriage, and leaving for me may look like sitting in my closet taking some time to process and work through all the feelings.
The truth is, once we stop trying to win the fight, or tell each other off, actual REAL healing begins. Once anger gives way to rational thought, we start calming our tone, and choosing the right words. In our best moments, we fight while we have a cup of coffee, discussing our differences like truly loving spouses should. In our worst moments we find ourselves battling for supremacy, and ultimately hurting the one whom we love the most. Marriage and relationships are hard! Whether you are fighting about money, sex, kids, time, responsibilities, the future, the past…please stop and breath. Ask yourself a simple question, “Am I planning to go anywhere else?” And start healing from there. Everything else is easier to face together. And the next time someone hears about our fights, because I’m sure there are many more on the horizons, please encourage me to do the same.
Friends, I haven’t been the nicest woman to be married to, I promise you that. I’m not saying I’m the worst (I think Asa can vouch for that), but I’ve wreaked some definite havoc on our marriage nonetheless. He has ALWAYS said, “I’m not going anywhere.” If you missed the incredibly difficult and vulnerable part of our story, where his love remained abundantly true, you can read that post here; but what I have learned in almost eleven years of marriage IS exactly what Asa said, “In our best moments, we fight while we we have a cup of coffee, discussing our differences like truly loving spouses should.” I’m not saying that’s easy. Lord knows there is nothing EASY about marriage or relationships, period. But what kind of relationship do you want to have? Do you WANT to leave? Or do you too promise that you aren’t going anywhere, so you’re going to agree on some rules of engagement.
Here are our 3 rules of engagement, the biggest lines we WILL NOT cross: no cussing, no leaving the house, and knowing it’s okay to take a time out and ‘pause’ the fight
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