But we are not always cute. On Saturday, our greatly different personalities led to a train wreck. Under pressure for a number of reasons, our different ways of attacking problems created a tension that I set off by saying some things I should not have said.
When such things happen, they lead either to raised voices (surprisingly rare for us) or silence and isolation (our preferred response). It struck me in reflection upon this that such responses do not arise out of an inherent meanness. Barb and I love each other desperately and have no desire to hurt each other in the least. Such responses arise from a lack of alternatives. They arise from frustration and a simple ignorance of any other way of dealing with the problem.
IF I had the way of saying what I wanted to say without hurting Barb, that would be the path I would follow. IF she had the way of expressing her frustration with me with clarity and not irritation, she would do so. I saw in that moment Saturday the awful potential for the destruction of marriage. I glimpsed in our responses to one another the kinds of behaviors that if tolerated and left unaddressed harden emotions and drive a couple apart.
After nearly 29 years (are we really THAT old?) we have not mastered the communication tools which diffuse conflict. We still blow it. But it seems to me whether a couple are young together or old, such flare ups should be seen as something akin to pain. Pain in the body alerts us to a problem needing to be addressed. Conflict in a relationship alerts the couple to a point to which they should address their attention. It can reveal a communication weakness or even some suppressed anger which must not be ignored.
We encourage you in the deepest way possible, when there is conflict, find a way to talk it through and seek out alternatives to dealing with that conflict. Learn how to ‘fight’, to disagree without resort to the strategies of desperation.
One thing which Satan would want to make us forget, but which we cannot allow to be forgotten is the Scripture’s admonition to not let the sun go down on one’s anger. Or, as another has put it, to never go to bed angry. To confess our faults and seek the forgiveness of the other is essential for unity and peace.
At the end of an old movie, What’s Up Doc?, Barbra Streisand looks at Ryan O’Neal and says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” O’Neal (of Love Story fame) replies, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” Yup.