Why hasn’t he mowed the lawn yet? Why can’t he put down his phone? Why is he outside watering the garden while I’m inside where it is clear from the screams of our boys through the open window that I’m obviously struggling with bath time?
Ever get stuck in a “why, why, why” cycle with your spouse? Everything he or she does is the wrong thing to do, or done in the wrong way, or done at the wrong time. I remember a specific night last week when I caught myself in this spiral. By the end of the night, I was in a perpetual state of grumpiness – the tiniest annoyance added to my bitterness and indignation at my husband’s actions or inactions.
I realized later that he wasn’t ignoring the lawn, he was waiting until the neighbors got home to borrow their mower, because ours wasn’t working. And that he had been paying an important and time sensitive bill on the phone while I was fuming over his inattention to household tasks. And he did come in and help with bath time, but just not at the split second I thought he should have.
So, it turns out that my assumption that “my husband is just so selfish and inattentive right now” was in fact, unfounded. But, there are also times when I don’t fully understand his action or inaction, and I can’t tidily wrap up the evening with an explanation.
My husband is a fallen human being with mixed motives and conflicting desires — just like me. But marriage is about sacrificial love, not ego-satisfying justice. And the more I focus on justice — especially my perception of what is just and fair — the farther I get from sacrificial love and the closer I cling to petty selfishness.
It’s true that some days (or months, or years) are harder in a marriage than others. During the harder times, resentment finds an easy way in and can hang around a while. I have started recognizing the signs in myself that warn me I’m going down that road. I’ve also seen what happens when people allow that resentment to grow, and don’t work against it. In the end, it’s much easier to walk away from marriage when you have a habit of resentment toward your spouse.
So, this is what I do.
I stop keeping track.
I have to rip up my mental scorecard of who is doing more chores, or who is helping more with the kids. I remind myself that we are a team, and that we both want the same things ultimately. To raise our kids and keep our household running, one of us may have to do more some days than others. Today, maybe I am doing more in one area than he is. But we’re a team, we fill in where the other person is lacking.
I say thank you.
I have tried to form the habit of saying thank you often, but when I notice resentment creeping in, I redouble my efforts. I try to especially thank my husband for the things I “assume” he should do, or that he always does that I overlook and take for granted. When he takes out the trash, or when he cuts our boys’ hair, or when he leads us in prayer—things he always does—I make it a point to say thank you. This also helps me take the log out of my eye and recall all the great things he does during the moments where all I can see are the specks in his eye.
I actively notice all the good things.
I make a mental (or sometimes physical) list of all the things my husband does for us. This exercise is easier or harder depending on the day, but it helps me grow in love so much. Mine includes: works to provide our life, makes tea for me in the evenings, loads the dishwasher, organizes get-togethers that help us make good friends, teaches me and our kids about the beauty of nature through birdwatching, and well, I could go on.
You get the idea; he’s a pretty great guy. The more you look, the more good you see and appreciate about your spouse.