At #TheLoft this week, we are sharing our best practical advice. Having just celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, my mind is full of thoughts and tips on marriage. I wrote this post a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t for the life of me come up with any advice better than this lesson my husband taught me oh, so long ago. So here it is, slightly revised and polished up for you to enjoy. Come on over to The Loft to get a week’s load of practical advice!
I was feeling very mature. Newly married, I had something to discuss with my beloved. I had heard that it is the little things that will kill a marriage. Things like leaving the cap off of the toothpaste, or putting the toilet paper on the roll the wrong way. These minor offenses must be talked out so they don’t fester and cause the demise of your love, I was told. So here I was, ready to tackle my first issue.
My new husband had this annoying habit. He didn’t seem to know how to close the dresser drawers all the way. It was the weirdest thing. He would habitually leave them open about an inch or so. It drove me nuts. So I decided we would sit down and discuss it like civilized people. He listened patiently as I calmly voiced my discontent in the sweetest way I could muster. He then proceeded to give me the very reasoned explanation for his offense. He explained that since he went to work before I was awake, he tried very hard to make as little noise as possible. Thus, he closed the drawers as far as they would go before making scraping sounds that might mar his bride’s sleep.
I suddenly felt very small.
I voiced my appreciation for his thoughtfulness. I could see now that it was a rather petty little annoyance. Desiring equity in our relationship, I then asked him to tell me if there was anything in my behavior that was bothering him. Mature people talk these things out, I explained. After all, I had read all of the magazine articles and books about this topic. Keeping things bottled up would be the death of our marital bliss. All the experts agreed.
Then this insanely wise man that I married blew me away with his response. He said that if I was doing something that bothered him, then he was the one with the problem, not me. He said that he would deal with whatever it was since the problem was his. If it was important, of course he would discuss it, but if it was not something earth-shattering then he didn’t feel it was worth making an issue of. Wow.
I put his wisdom into practice that day, and I can honestly say that it is one of the best things I ever did. From then on, if something was irritating me, I would ponder it for a time and ask myself a few questions. Does this really need to change, or can I learn to live with it for the benefit of my spouse? Is this something I can do for him that will bless him, rather than harp on him about it? Is this actually an important issue in the big scheme of things?
Yes, occasionally there are real issues that need to be addressed. Maybe 1% of the time. The other 99% is just small stuff. Things that don’t matter unless I choose to let them matter. And I must admit that I soon found this way of thinking to be quite a relief! I didn’t have to police his behavior anymore and I didn’t need to worry about him having issues with me. The fact is, we are both imperfect people and the only way we would do this marriage gig well is to choose to offer grace freely.
Do I live this out perfectly? Of course not. In fact, I sometimes find it harder after 18 years to freely extend grace to my husband. Why? I suppose that I just get lazy. You see, it’s easier at times to wallow in discontent and see myself as put-upon. Choosing to put my mate before myself is much, much harder. I need the reminder every now and again that love is a choice.
May we always purpose to choose to love. May we lovingly turn a blind eye to the imperfections of our loved ones and shower them with grace. And who knows, perhaps those petty annoyances will become beloved quirks someday. Now when I spy the dresser drawer cracked open a bit, I walk over and close it with a smile.
*(Colossians 3:12-14) “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
**Photo by Gualberto 107, at freedigitalphotos.net