Marriage Perspectives: Choosing Your Battles
- Monday, August 20, 2007
As I write this, I am staring at an incredible annoyance. It’s a small thing––just an empty bag of chips. But it has been in its resting spot for three and a half days now. (Yes, I’m keeping track.) Of course I could easily throw it away and I would no longer have to look at it. But you see, I didn’t leave it there, so why should I have to take care of it?
My husband, the person responsible for this atrocity, could just as easily pick it up. So instead, I will roll my eyes every time I walk by it, mumble under my breath about how ridiculous it is to leave trash lying around the house, and try to bite my tongue while I keep track of how long it takes Ryan to finally realize the error of his ways and correct the wrong.
I know from past history that his ability to ignore his offense will inevitably outlast my ability to keep quiet about it. I will either grumpily ask him to throw the bag away “sometime in this century,” or I will use it as fuel for our next argument, which, whether it starts on this topic or not, will undoubtedly expand to cover the disparity in household chores. The bag will either become fodder for a twenty-minute argument or it will cause resentment and general crankiness in our household for up to an entire afternoon. But at least I won’t have to throw the stinkin’ bag away myself! I will have won!
Or will I?
After six years of marriage, I have realized that it’s usually easier to just pick up after my husband than to try to “train” him to clean up after himself. Unfortunately, realizing and learning are not always interconnected. Far more often than I apply this life lesson, pride or indignation cause me to ignore it. After all, I really am right! Ryan should take care of his own messes. But then, I’m sure there are countless times I wrong him and, for the most part, he keeps it to himself. Unlike me, Ryan has never rattled off a laundry list of wrongdoings. In fact, today, for the first time, he finally brought up a fairly major offense of mine from five years ago.
When we moved into our old farmhouse I enthusiastically painted all the walls and then proceeded to slap four coats of white paint on the window frames. Ryan warned me not to paint the windows shut, but in my haste, I ignored him and permanently “locked” every single one. Today, we were washing those windows, a tedious process that involves borrowing a ladder, navigating bushes and wasp nests, detaching the storm windows, and after a thorough scrubbing, attempting to match screw holes.
Ryan is not the most patient worker bee. After being on the receiving end of a few gruff answers and overhearing choice words muttered under his breath, I let him know that he had no right to talk so harshly to me. I included in my rant a list of his latest offenses and a few not-so-recent ones. When I was finished, Ryan reminded me that I should know by now that he gets frustrated easily when we do this type of work, and that the job would have been much easier if the windows hadn’t been painted shut.
Ouch. It felt like a slap on the wrist to be reminded of a years-old mistake. But I was silenced when Ryan said, “I’ve never said anything about that until now, but that’s why this job is so frustrating.” I realized then that he had every right to let me have it about that fateful paint job. You can bet if the tables were turned, Ryan would have heard about those windows every time a house-maintenance topic (related or not) came up!
I guess my husband is more aware than I of the truth that humans are flawed and meant to love and forgive each other, despite those flaws. The perfectionist in me wants to fix the flaws first. But that’s not how Christ loves us (and praise God he doesn’t, or we’d all be hosed!)
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