It may sound like a crazy idea, but it’s true. The best marriages fight with each other. Of course, what’s important isn’t the fight; it’s what they fight about. I remember when we were young parents with young children. In addition to raising our kids we were business owners trying to make it in the pizza industry. We were TIRED! Do I hear a collective “Amen” out there among you parents of infants?
Maybe you’ve experienced that familiar scene. Your baby hasn’t slept all that well throughout the day. She’s a little cranky (Yes Alyse, I’m talking about you). You are looking forward to finally getting her to bed so the two of you can visit and get a good night sleep. Your visit is short because you’re both exhausted. The minute your head hits the pillow you’re out. Your dream of sandy beaches in Hawaii is suddenly shattered by the cry of your baby.
In the name of full disclosure, there “might” have been times I pretended to not hear the baby and laid perfectly still in hopes Kelli would wake up with our child. But as I began to grow up and our marriage strengthened, it wasn’t unusual for an argument to break out. Only the argument went a little like this:
Kelli: “I’ve got her.”
Me: “No, I’m happy to get up.”
Kelli: “No, you’ve got a long day today.”
Me: “No, you barely had any sleep last night.”
And you get the idea.
The best marriages fight. But they fight on behalf of their spouse. Shanti Feldhahn in her latest book which I highly recommend, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, shares a similar idea. In a chapter titled “Keep Score”, she says, “Consciously or subconsciously, partners in highly happy marriages keep score of what they “owe” their spouses.” Then, she says, they will make it a point to “compensate” their partner.
So in the same way that Kelli and I would fight on behalf of each other, Feldhahn says the happiest couples keep score, but they keep score of all the good things their spouse has done. Of course half the battle, in the busyness of life is to just notice all the things your husband or wife is doing for your family. Too often out of our selfishness we keep track of what we’ve done and carry grudges. That’s a guarantee for trouble in a marriage.
Instead, what would your marriage look like if you each were trying hard to never “owe” the other person – to out give them? Rather than keeping track of the things they haven’t done, you notice what they have done. I promise if you both do that, arguments will break out as you wrestle to out give your mate. But that’s a fight that will lead to a strong and healthy marriage.
Have you and your spouse had any of these “fights”? We’d love to hear about them.