Stomping like a child, I stormed back and forth between our garage and house. I was so angry! Brad and I were packing for a trip to spend time with my family. We were in a disagreement about where we were going to stay and how much time we were going to spend with my family while on the trip. I thought he should want more time with my family. Our interaction soured the whole trip. This is my first recollection of my marriage making me mad.
Almost fifteen years in, and a few mad episodes later, here are some reflections on ways to minimize marriage madness.
- Be on the same team – Avoid blame, seek to understand, cheer each other on, celebrate – even the smallest success.
- Take a time out – Perhaps it was what she said, what he didn’t do, or how much someone spent. Your heart pumps faster. Your perspective becomes blurry. Your thinking is cloudy. You’ve been here before. Said things you regretted. Stop the madness and take a time out. Acknowledge the situation you’re in and ask for a break – a mental break, a physical break, an emotional break – and agree on a time to talk about the issue when one or both of you have had time to calm down.
- Get back to the basics. Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach, Chuck Noll, says it this way, “If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does and do them day in and day out.” Perhaps one of the best ways to improve a relationship is to listen, REALLY listen. Does it get more basic than that? Author, composer, and musician Michael Card says, “Listening is the language of love.”
- Mentally prepare. It’s been a long week. Work was demanding; the difficult colleague was especially difficult. Evenings were booked with your commitments or the kids’ commitments. You haven’t slept well. Traffic was bad. You know you’re on edge. It’s Friday night, and you park your car in the driveway. Last week you showed up on Friday night being short, selfish, and crabby. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t unique. You want this Friday night to be better. Mentally prepare by saying a prayer for help, reflecting for a few minutes before going into the house, speaking aloud what is bothering you, listening to a favorite song, rehearsing what you want to say when you walk in the door. Coming home doesn’t have to be the same way as last week.
- Take care of yourself – is the problem your marriage or is it you? Are you sleeping, eating well, exercising, having devotions, meditating, journaling, etc. How are your self-care habits? It’s hard to give to others when your cup is empty.
- Keep the end game in mind – What do you really want? Since its likely not the title of champion of the NCAA tournament, then what is it? A peaceful home? An intimate relationship – emotionally… physically? A lifelong companion? What is one way you can work towards that today? Former NFL Coach George Allen says “Try not to do too many things at once. Know what you want, the number one thing today and tomorrow. Persevere and get it done.”
- Find a good coach/marriage mentor/counselor. Some things are bigger than we are. Getting help is the smart option. A good coach helps you do what you don’t want to do, so you can do what you want to do.