One of the charming games my husband and I play to keep our marriage exciting is called, “My Life Is Harder Than Yours”. (Not to be confused with “You Squeeze the Toothpaste Tube Wrong” or “Why Isn’t The House Clean? What Have You Been doing All Day”, a couple of our other favorites.) This game is played by complaining about how your life is more difficult/taxing/unfair than the other person’s; the louder and more defensive you can be, the better. The game is won by making the other person burst into tears or slam the door. Perhaps you are familiar with this game? Or play a version of it at your house?
Ok, so this isn’t really a game. More like a tired argument my husband and I have had more times that I would care to admit. The most recent occurrence was last week. With our church callings, large family, full-time employment (my husband) and grad school (also my husband), our life is full to the brim and always percolating with stress.
After the last bout of cross words I stood back and looked at the situation. What exactly are we getting so angry about? Yes, we’re both stressed out and busy, busy, busy. So why are we yelling about it? Why has this turned into a comparison about who has a harder life? Why do I need to make my spouse feel bad in order to validate myself?
I have no idea.
Sometimes I feel like my husband and I treat each other like the enemy instead of being the teammates we promised we’d be for eternity. We are so dumb.
Getting angry is always the easy answer. It’s the one that is always hovering and ready to leap out of my mouth at the first hint of friction. This is not good. I’m not an angry person and I never meant to be like this. I hate that I am always on the defensive instead of looking to make a difficult situation filled with understanding and love.
I’m not going to get into why marriages have problems and start blathering about how we need to respect each other. I know this. In my head I know how to have a perfect marriage. The marriage in my head and what comes out of my mouth have very little in common, though. Instead I’m going to teach myself how to put the mean games away and, as Dieter Uchtdorf has so cannily said, “Stop it”.
When my husband walks in the door and announces how his day was totally crappy and how I’m so lucky to stay home with the kids, I will not give him the laundry list of all the wretched things I had to deal with. (This isn’t a contest, remember!) Instead I will say, “You’re right. I am lucky to stay home with the kids. But it sounds like you had a super bad day. What happened?”
I am 99% sure that we will both feel a lot happier by the end of the conversation.
I need to practice saying, “I’m sorry you’re so stressed out. How can I help?” and “You’re right; you do have a lot on your plate right now.” Let me just tell you that saying these things is so not natural for me. It’s going to feel really forced and contrived. But it will be coming from my heart. I want to be the kind, caring wife again.