People say that if your marriage can survive building a house, then it can survive anything. Matthew and I are in the midst of building for the third time. I don’t know if that really speaks more to the strength of our marriage or to the hardness of our heads. Did we not learn from the first two times how difficult this is? Apparently we did not.
This time, the stakes are bigger. This time we are building our dream home. Our last home. The one from which I shall be carried feet first. This is it. The one where we will visit with our adult children, and play with our dozen grandchildren (A woman can hope… right?). The one from where we will watch the sun set on our sunset years. This house has been a long time in the making. We have plotted and planned, made and remade it over and over again in our minds and on paper. Exciting stuff. Get the picture?
While it’s fun and exciting… it is very stressful. There are so many things to consider. Lots of things on which he and I must be in agreement. Lots of things on which to concede, given in, and compromise. Many, MANY opportunities to disagree. Many points that cause stress (Like going over budget!). We both just assume that the home I have imagined for so long is the same home he has envisioned. How can it not be? We have discussed it at length and to death. But we are different people, he and I, and that means we have to constantly work to make sure we hold the same vision. And for that to happen, there must be compromise.
Not too long ago, our Highlands College President, Mark Pettus, gave us the third installment in a relationship series at church. He talked to us about how to fight fair in our marriages. (The principles will work in any relationship, though.) Most people think that having a relationship where there are no fights is the best kind. I tend to disagree. Who doesn’t love a good fight every now and again? But those fights have to have safe boundaries. We have to fight fair. We can’t get into cage matches where anything goes. It doesn’t honor God, and it does nothing to grow a marriage.
The best thing Mark said in his message was this,
“You are either going to give in to your spouse or you are going to give in to the devil. Either way, you’re giving in.”
Think about that. Most of us hold on to our mad because we don’t want to be the first one to give in. If you can hold out longer than they can, you win! But do you, really? Why wouldn’t we rush to be the one to give in first? Shouldn’t that be the win? Shouldn’t we want the relationship to win? Giving a cold shoulder, or throwing verbal barbs at our spouses still means we gave in, we just gave in to the devil.
God knew we would have disagreements, He just said to deal with them in love, and not let them go on too long (Ephesians 4:26). When we let the sun go down on our anger, the enemy can have us thinking all kinds of lies about our spouses. Crazy stupid thoughts. Didn’t you not ever wonder where those random thoughts come from? You know the ones… The he nevers and the he always thoughts. How quickly those can snowball. Before we know it we have completely vilified the person we love the most. I hate the devil.
So here’s the science behind those thoughts we have… the longer we allow ourselves to think those unhealthy thoughts about our spouses, the stronger those neural pathways become in our minds, and the stronger those thought patterns become. That’s why the Bible tells us to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8). We are literally hard-wiring a network in our brains for good thinking.
Does it really matter who gave in first last time? Are we really going to keep score like that? Are we seven? Fight fair. Fight for your spouse, not with them. And if you do find yourself fighting with your spouse… give in first… making up is fun!
Oh, and in case you’re interested… Here’s a quick pic of the house so far!