I love my husband. He is—above all things—my beloved friend, and since the day we’ve met, we’ve enjoyed talking to each other for hours on end.
But, as in any marriage, there are times when communication breaks down. When anger rises within me, overtakes me and makes me want to say mean and nasty things to the one I love:
“I don’t understand why you just can’t …”
“If you would only…”
These moments are always the product of competing needs and mismatched perceptions. Each of us has a valid point of view that we are willing to die for.
Over time, I have learned, that it is best in these moments to bite my tongue and give myself a time out.
The draw to be right, to win, to pummel the other into agreement with one’s own perspective is great. Sometimes, if I’m really incensed, I return to mutter stuff under my breath.
But more and more, I make an effort to take a step towards Kevin. To swallow back all the brilliant, witty, caustic remarks that seep from my mouth, and get curious. Probe deeper. Try to understand where he is coming from. Acknowledge his point of view. Own and apologize for my own wrongdoing.
It is at once, the hardest and most simple thing to do, setting aside your ego, but it is necessary for preserving the relationship. Ultimately, that is what I want—not to be right in this particular argument, or to get my way, but for us to live peacefully and happily as possible. To get away from this place where we have become monstrous, and return to love.
It’s hard because my parents fought viciously. At some point, they lost their way and could not find the path back to where they started.
I rarely saw reaching out. Resolution. Repair.
Which means that it took me that much longer to learn how to do things differently.
Yesterday, we spent a lovely day with friends who also have one child, a boy, Sophie’s age. Together, the kids played in the pool and frolicked in the spray ground, while we idly looked on, chatting. I quietly observed that, personality-wise, Sophie and Jacob were evenly matched. I am always amazed when Sophie meets a child equally intense as herself and, rather than butt heads, they inspire each other. Sure, there were rubs, taunts, and a moment where one pushed the other under a bucket that dumped a torrent of water on the other’s head. But the desire to enjoy each other’s company clearly trumped any bump in the road. Hurt feelings were quickly smoothed over.
Riding in the car, on the way home, Sophie suddenly announced, “I want to kiss Jacob.”
Kevin beat me to my question, “How come?”
“Because I love him.” She was beaming with the memory of their day together. “I want to marry him,” she added.
I thought about all the other girls and boys who had suddenly got bumped from the future spouse list.
“Why do you want to marry him?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Because he’s fun. We had five fights today. But even when we fight, we find a way to solve our problem. Then we have more fun!”
At five, she’s already got it.