I am a city girl who agreed to follow my husband Steve’s dream of moving to a simpler life in the country. But here’s the thing: Since we moved from the San Francisco Bay area to our little cabin, life had certainly not become simpler.
For example, the house was so far off the grid that we didn’t even have electricity. Steve would beg to differ, explaining that we did have power, it just came from a generator. So what was it like living in a small house outside of society as a stay-at-home mom of three small children? Let’s just say “simple life” is not the phrase that comes to mind.
The first months of “living simply” meant learning to shop for whatever we’d need until the next trip to town (which was 40 minutes away). Our propane refrigerator was very small with a freezer the size of a shoebox. This meant stocking up on perishable items was out of the question. And with two children in diapers, I had to guesstimate how many diapers and wipes they’d go through until our next venture to town. Remember, the house was tiny so there wasn’t space to store baby essentials. You can imagine how an unexpected bout of baby diarrhea could throw off my well-planned calculations.
One day while Steve and I were in our small-scale house, a monstrous tarantula crept across the living room floor! Steve captured the franken-spider and threw it into our wood-burning stove. My relief gave way to terror when the flaming spider screeched and jumped out of the fire toward me! When Steve finally killed the tarantula, I sobbed and asked, “What if that thing had gotten the kids? What if you hadn’t been home? What if?”
When Steve laughingly explained that tarantulas are harmless, my tears turned to angry accusations as I blamed him for moving us to such a horrible place. I ranted uncontrollably about all of the sacrifices I made to live out his dream. Until the tarantula incident, I thought I had adjusted well to country life — my reaction revealed otherwise.
When sparks start marriage arguments
Marriage arguments rarely come out of nowhere. There are usually sparks that ignite discord. An angry response to everyday problems is evidence of suppressed wounds or resentful attitudes. When I blew up at Steve, my anger stemmed from months of resentment over our difficult lifestyle.
When your husband forgets to fill the gas tank, does his forgetfulness (or laziness) send you into a rage? If you would normally respond in anger, it’s time to evaluate if something deeper is going on inside.
For example, if you’ve already been feeling like your husband doesn’t do enough to help with the kids, seeing the empty gage may unleash negative thoughts you’ve suppressed such as:
- All he thinks about is himself. Doesn’t he care that this will make us late?
- Just once I’d like to see him wake up early enough to drive the kids to school.
- If he really appreciated me, he would’ve filled the gas tank.
Focus on Marriage Assessment
Fight or flight
Most people respond to conflict by either shutting down or speaking hurtful words. My reaction to conflict is to be silent. As a young bride, I thought not saying anything was the “more spiritual” response. But holding my tongue while nurturing resentment would eventually spark an emotional explosion of regretful accusations.
But shutting down is just as damaging as arguing because ignoring your spouse is a form of rejection that undermines unity. Alternately, no one is the victor if you speak your mind until you win an argument. Winning marriage arguments is not the same thing as resolving conflict, and it will never lead to unity in marriage.
So why do you argue?
Why do people who vowed to love each other forever resort to bickering? James 4:1-2 offers this insight:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.
James explains how selfish desires cause quarrels. And if you and your spouse focus wrongly on what you believe you must have to be happy, you’ll fight “to the death” to receive it. For some, this means the death of their marriage. Do you feel so strongly about getting your way that you’ll fight for it no matter what it does to undermine your relationship? If so, it’s time to rethink and relearn a better way.
Thinking that your relationship will never experience conflict is naive but learning to resolve conflict in a way that is Christ-honoring and peacemaking is realistic. In our book, The Marriage Mentor, Steve and I cover practical ways to make peace. Here are a few to consider:
- Realize your spouse is not your enemy. Read “Spiritual Warfare: When the Enemy Attacks Your Marriage.”
- Admit you have a problem. Stop blaming your spouse and honestly evaluate your own contribution to marital turmoil. Be ready to repent and change what you think about your spouse.
- Refuse to be argumentative. Whenever something sparks a marriage argument, determine to stop and consider how God would have you respond. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
- Make peace a priority. No argument is worth winning when the love and unity of your marriage is at stake. Consider Hebrews 12:14: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
- Pray without ceasing. Never stop asking God to help you respond lovingly toward your spouse. Don’t wait for your spouse to change. With God’s help, the change can begin with you.
- Seek godly counselors. Befriending couples with marriages you’d like to emulate is wise. Look around your church for such couples. You can find great marriage mentoring resources and counselors as well.
Don’t wait until God sends a huge spider across your path to spark your suppressed aggression. Make it a habit to regularly say like the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139: 23-24).
Determine to do whatever it takes to learn to resolve conflict in a godly manner. Let it begin with you. Pursue peace in your marriage and you’ll be on the right path to creating a no-regrets marriage.