I put the last load of laundry into the dryer, and lugged the basket of newly dried clothes into the bedroom. I mindlessly folded the various pieces of clothing from the basket, and then put everything away. I even matched up all of the socks, a fate worse than death. I breathed a sigh of relief as I matched the last two socks. “There,” I thought, “my debt is paid.”
I hadn’t lost a bet, I hadn’t decided on a whim that I just wanted to do laundry. No, I owed my wife the laundry because I lost my temper over a situation. We had decided our own punishments ahead of time, and laundry was mine. I have learned my lesson, I don’t want to do that much laundry ever again.
I should point out that Lanette had to empty the trash a couple of weeks ago, her punishment. Neither of us are perfect, so I am sure there is more laundry and trash duties ahead for each of us. We joked about the punishments, but the underlying reason for agreeing on them is vital to our marriage.
No matter how close Lanette and I get, there is always room for improvement. There are wrinkles in our attitudes, or flaws in our dealing with certain situations. Those wrinkles and flaws can be large or small, but no matter their size, if they are left to fester, they will grow to astronomical size. Eventually, the feelings and pain that aren’t dealt with become a cancer in your relationship, and the harm is so much harder to deal with. The key is to handle situations as they come up, before the hurt can set in.
All couples get into scrapes and disagreements. The problem is not that we sometimes disagree with those we love. The problem us HOW we disagree. Instead of listening we tune the other person out. Instead of accepting their hurt, we justify our poor behavior. We replace trying to understand with making sure we are understood. We throw love, compassion and grace to the wind so we can win an argument. We win the battle, but lose the battle, and our home, in the process.
So how do we make sure this doesn’t happen? We quit being selfish. Selfishness is born out of pride. We become the center of our universe, and others suffer.
Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.”
Get your pride out of the way. Learn how to talk out your feelings and frustrations. Truly listen to your partner, don’t just nod while you think about the next thing you will say. Try to understand their heart, not just their words. Remember that if they think it is a problem, it is a problem. You are sharing a life, not trying to make the other person a clone of you.
When you do decide to talk, remember this Scripture: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29) How is it that we are more abusive to our family members than we would ever be to someone else? Be an encouragement, not someone who tears your family down.
Paul goes on to say, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) Does that sound like your last argument? If not, you have some work to do. It may even include emptying the trash or doing the laundry.
Happy not to do socks again… Jerry