Confession. My husband and I fight.
I don’t mean a five minute spat over who didn’t refill the tea pitcher. I mean a knock-down, drag-out, all-out, below-the-belt verbal assault happens in our little campus apartment every couple of days (yes, the neighbors probably hate us).
I’m not proud of this. It’s not like it’s a hobby of ours to demean each other, or like we have a daily goal of, “well, I haven’t made her cry yet, so the day’s not over.” No, we just fight. It’s spontaneous, it’s ugly. We know exactly what to say and what not to do to start a fight and make it hurt.
And it does.
We’ve been married all of two months. It’s not exactly been the “honeymoon” stage you’d typically think of. We are both very stubborn and very selfish, something we’ve both come to see (in the other of course).
Some days, I’m not sure how we’re going to make it like this. We’ll be fine for a day or so and then someone will say or not say something, do or not do something and our perfectly fine, sunshiny day goes out the window and gale force winds and severe weather warnings begin storming through our marriage.
The Crazy Cycle.
That’s what our premarital counselor called it. “He reacts without love, she responds without respect,” and round and round we go. It is from the book Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs. I haven’t had time to read it, but even if this little chart were the only thing in it, it would be worth getting. It’s completely biblical. Ephesians 5:33 says, “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Merriam-Webster defines respect as, “an act of giving particular attention : consideration; high or special regard : esteem; the quality or state of being esteemed.”
I’m going to be totally transparent here. If this is the definition, I suck at respecting my husband. To be fair, he doesn’t do a wonderful job of showing me love, but I am not called to respect my husband only when he has loved me fully. I am just called, as a wife, to respect him.
Craziness is maddening. Sometimes, I just want to scream and pull my hair. I don’t know what to do. But in an article by Eggerichs at the Focus on the Family website*, there’s a little bit of hope.
“[The Crazy Cycle] happens among good-willed people. Sadly, some think they have a horrible marriage because of this craziness. Truth is, they are inches away from making an adjustment that can set them in a whole new and positive course.”
Reading this was like a little bit of light through the clouds during a storm. When we are in a fight, I think we have a terrible marriage. Other people fight, but there’s no way they fight this bad or this much. Will we make it?
My husband and I had just finished a huge blow up when I read this. He left to clear his head (and probably just get away from me for a while). I was balled up crying. I thought of this Crazy Cycle. We keep going through it time and time again. How can we fix it? How can we get out of this cycle? Turn it on it’s head. I don’t want to spend the next five years trying to figure it out. Then I read this further down in the article:
“Because a wife needs love, a husband would be wise to assume his wife’s negative reaction is rooted in her feeling unloved. On the other hand, because a husband needs respect, a wife would be prudent to assume her husband’s negative reaction is rooted in his feeling disrespected.”
…because a husband needs respect, a wife would be prudent to assume her husband’s negative reaction is rooted in his feeling disrespected.
The cycle doesn’t just start with the husband being unloving. It may, but the moment I choose to react with disrespect, I have set the cycle in motion. I have the control in that moment, when my husband acts without love, to either pump the brakes, or send the car over a cliff.
Too many times I begin the cycle. And too many times I let it continue. I choose to let the car go over the edge. I choose to let the storm in.
I’m not going to lie to you and say from now on everything will be peach perfect and happy. I completely foresee more fights similar to this one. But it just helps to know there is Someone (the Holy Spirit) who is absolutely willing to intervene in our marriage. To take both of us — flawed, selfish humans — and transform our marriage more into the image of Christ and the Church. Selfless, esteemed and unconditionally loved. It also helps to realize I do have control in a situation that gets so easily out of control.
I have a choice.