Sacrifice: The Key to True Marital Unity
- Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Amy and I were locked in what felt like mortal combat. Neither was willing to give in to the other's wish. To make matters worse, both of us had legitimate needs and feelings that we were not willing to give up. This is where our true struggle began.
It was the fall of our third year of marriage. We'd already survived several major arguments, and actually came out closer as friends and lovers. But this one was different. Before, when we argued, the resolution seemed to always make sense. Like the time we survived the big "Money Management Fight." I finally understood that it wasn't "smart" financing to not tell my wife when and how much money I withdrew from that wonderful invention, the ATM machine. Our checkbook never matched the bank statement that would arrive once a month. The checkbook not matching up to the bank statement did not bother me because my philosophy for a balanced checking account was to switch banks when things got "confused!" However, Amy had a different opinion. The resolution to this problem was fairly obvious - keep the receipts! But the argument we were locked in now had no possible Win/Win solution, or at least it didn't seem to have one.
It all started one night when I returned home from my work as a marriage and family intern therapist. I immediately sensed the mood in the room. There was a familiar aura about it -- then it struck me. Before Amy could say anything, I knew she was pregnant. We were going to have our second OOOPS. Our second "unplanned" pregnancy.
Both of us immediately panicked. Actually, Amy had already spent the better part of the day panicking. How could we finish school with two children? I had one more year in my masters program, but Amy had just started her two-year program. That meant that Amy would be pregnant during her first year, and we would have two children during her second year in the program.
We wouldn't be able to afford to have both children in daycare, and were not truly willing to put an infant in daycare anyway. This meant that either Amy had to drop out of Wheaton College and attend a school closer to family in Missouri so we could both pursue our dreams, or I could take a year off from my work to stay at home full time so Amy could finish at Wheaton College.
As marriage and family therapists, we were able to recognize that both of us had legitimate needs and feelings. I had just spent three grueling years obtaining my education, and I had an intense need to use that education. Amy had a legitimate need to finish her education at an elite program in which she had already developed many lasting friendships. We were stuck.
I felt that she was being selfish in not wanting to move to Missouri, where we could both pursue our dreams while family and friends helped with the children. She felt that I was being selfish in not wanting to stay at home for one year so she could finish her degree at Wheaton College.
Then one day, after two solid weeks of arguing, we reached the breaking point. In a small bagel shop in Wheaton, Illinois, Amy and I exploded -- only as therapists can explode. There we quietly bombarded each other with hurtful words and false accusations, making sure no one could hear us. I finally stood up and announced, "Well fine! I have to go now and counsel couples!" I stormed out of the restaurant and headed for the counseling clinic, where I was supposed to help couples get along better!
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Before I entered the counseling room, I met with my supervisor. I stepped into her office, definitely not in the mood to discuss anything close to therapy or helping people. She never looked at me, but simply said, "I think we need to just meet in silence." So there I sat, sprawled on her couch, eyes closed, head leaned back. It was then the miracle occurred.
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