I have this annoying tendency with my husband that starts an argument faster than a ten-second post disappears on Snapchat. You see I try to read his mind about what he is feeling when he doesn’t give me a lot of information or an overtly positive response about a request I’ve made. I’ve taken this as my cue to then try to interpret his body language, facial expressions, or even his quietness on the subject—often assuming the worst about his motives as a result.
So instead of believing the best about him, like the Bible reminds us to do:
“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:7a AMPC).
I have tended to believe the worst about him.
Recalling a Monumental and ‘Revealing’ Argument
Years ago, my pastor husband and I were attending, of all things, a marriage conference for pastor’s and their wives. This conference was in New York and on the day following the conference we were planning to go to the taping of the Today Show on the plaza. But that was really what “I” wanted to do and not so much what my husband wanted to do. He had indicated some hesitancy about it, but was willing to do it, though he wasn’t quite sure the best way to get down there.
So on the first day of the conference we were standing around talking with a few of the conference workers before going in to the first session, when my husband asked them about things to do in New York. Immediately, I noticed that he didn’t ask anything about the Today Show or how to get down there. This led me to assume the negative about his reasons for not asking.
As we made our way into the conference room, I asked my husband if the reason he didn’t ask about the Today Show was because he didn’t really want to go. This did not go over well with my husband one bit! So he began to discuss this publicly with me in what I was “assuming” was an irritated way (A “mind-reader’s” job is never done!).
Of course, his irritated tone sent my anxiety through the roof, because I surely didn’t want any of these other pastors and pastor’s wives to hear us bickering as we entered the “marriage workshop.” I hope you see the irony and humor that I now feel and see about all of this. Mind you, I didn’t feel like it was funny at the time—not one bit—but I’m happy to say that I’ve learned so much from that one encounter that I can now look back and laugh.
Truly, at the time, I wanted to pin this on my husband. But after much prayer and processing, I came to some important realizations about myself from that argument.
What this Argument with my Husband Revealed about Me
1. The wounds of my past and upbringing were in the mix.
I discovered that my motives were entangled with fears that I had let take root in my heart. My mother was a good woman, but had this one fatal flaw—she often managed others using guilt to get them to do what she wanted. I’ve done that myself a time or two, but mostly, I struggle to do things from a place of willingness, rather than obligation.
So I tend to fear that my husband is doing the same thing with me, especially when he appears to be reluctant in any way, shape or form to what I have requested of him. This has formed something of a trigger for him. He will admit that freely to all, so I’m not guilty of reading his mind on that one!
2. I needed to take my husband at his word—trusting that my husband is trustworthy.
My husband has never given me reason to doubt his trustworthiness, especially when it comes to the vows he made to me on our wedding day. I’ve just struggled so much to trust myself to say “no” when I’ve needed to, that I placed that mantle on him as well.
I am much better at saying “no” now—as well as trusting my convictions and beliefs. And ironically that has made it easier for me to trust that my husband is trustworthy, even though he didn’t necessarily change one way or the other on this particular issue. I just realized that it was really my problem of not trusting him, when I should have taken him at his word.
3. I needed to learn to express my concerns apart from the “heat of the moment.”
This has been a game-changer in our marriage. Whenever my husband or I try to deal with a perceived problem in the “heat of the moment,” things go sideways fast. If I had waited until much later in the day, when my husband wasn’t tempted to feel “blindsided” by my emerging worries in a public venue, I think it would have gone over much better. Especially, if I had owned my feelings instead of putting them on him like I did.
4. I needed to learn to ask good questions at that later time of reflection with my husband.
In addition to communicating my concerns and owning my feelings, I could have easily solved the mystery by asking him good, open-ended questions about his feelings regarding the Today Show activity. Instead, I played “counselor” to the dysfunction I
perceived in him—slapping him with the diagnosis of “his” problem as I saw it. No one wants to be in that counselor’s hot seat!
Solomon with all the mistakes he made in marriage still knew better than I did on this one,
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5 NIV).
Point taken, King Solomon!
The Argument with my Husband Autopsy
Now, I’m still a work-in-progress on all of these fronts, but these principles are becoming more and more integrated into my life and mindset since that fateful day. And I attribute that to learning to do an “Argument Autopsy” after every conflict. In fact, as a counselor and life-coach, I try to teach my clients to do this with the conflicts they have in life and marriage because of all that it has taught me. There is just such a wealth of information to be found after an argument, not necessarily to understand our mates and loved ones better, but to understand ourselves better.
My hope is that you will take the time after your next conflict to do an “Argument Autopsy” like I did and continue to do whenever conflicts arise in my marriage. That means praying and asking for God to reveal what you were thinking or doing wrong before or, better yet, instead of examining what your mate did wrong. Give them the opportunity to figure that out with God, if they are willing. And if your spouse is not, then a big way you can move forward is to commit to pray for your mate—leaving them in God’s capable hands. Believe me, God is so much better at revealing what we—and this includes our spouses—need to see and acknowledge than we are on any given day!
This article originally appeared at To Love, Honor, & Vacuum.