This was originally something I wrote when we had only 4 children, but seems like a good one to repeat here (with a few adjustments for wisdom and age) being that our oldest son was just married a few weeks ago. I would love to think that they will never have incidents of disagreement but, let's be real, marriage is work, and sometimes we don't hear one another well or have a poor understanding - and hopefully these tips will be of some use to them when the time comes.
The other night though, I annoyed Jeff a bit, as married folks do at times. The cause of what annoyed him is not the point of this post. The aftereffect of our late-night discussion is the point. One of the things we decided early on in our marriage was to follow the adage of not going to bed angry - or really even in disharmony with one another over an issue. Accordingly, we came to a more agreeable state before looking to sleep at around 4 a.m. (we didn't get into the discussion until 3 so it didn't keep us up too much later than we might have been anyway.) But as I laid back down, I noticed that while our queen-sized bed normally feels cozy, on this occasion, we were both just far enough away from one another to create a gap in the covers, and a cold one at that. All of a sudden, the bed was downright roomy but not in a comfortable way!
THAT is the point of this post:
a minor annoyance can put a mountainous wedge between two people, even when they love one another.
What a problem that wedge can be when we haven't predetermined how we'll deal with it! Just as a metal wedge is used to split huge logs, a mental wedge can split apart friendships, marriages, sibling relationships, business partnerships... One of the things I strive to teach our children is that it is not only what we say and do to another person that can make the difference in how things turn out, but also even our overall attitude about that person or situation. If I take the attitude that my position is the "right" position, no matter what, then in the end, I am bound to lose, "no matter what" because my attitude will become an invisible wedge in the situation.
If I open my mind to what the other person is saying and really try to hear that person, I am more open to the possibility of reconciliation. In the end the relationship may not work out or be what is best, regardless of my position on things, but it is important to at least make that effort to understand where the other person is coming from, and where I may be wrong in my own standing.
As an aside for my children and their future spouses: overcoming your pride and recognizing that you may be W-R-O-N-G can help ensure that you have very few nights with cold feet and a gap in the covers!
In other words: learn to listen, learn to let go of your pride, learn to say, "I'm sorry." Finally, never go to bed annoyed with one another - at least try to talk it out and come to a middle ground on which to continue later.
One of the things I have trained myself to do in difficult discussions is take a second to block out what the other person is saying, and inwardly pray for humility and a humble enough heart that I'll hear where I am wrong, and to be given the words I need to say that will help the other person hear what they need. Then... I shut off my mind, and my pride, and my hurt and opinions - and try to just be in that moment to hear what I need to hear, and to live out that prayer I just said. This has diffused many hard conversations with more than one person.
don't go to bed angry.