“We need to move.” I texted my husband. Our home was unfit for human occupancy as wild vermin had taken up residence. The outbreak was widespread and blatantly vicious. “We need to move,” I texted a second time to emphasis the urgency.
The specimen of my concern was a foot-long, slithering garter snake. I hate snakes. After snapping its sharp little fangs at the dogs, it slipped into a hole in the cement at the base of our garage door and out of sight.
“They live under the garage floor,” the reptile-honoring-man-I-married texted me back.
They? He had discovered the snakes three days earlier while mowing and had decided to withhold the information. I can’t imagine why.
“I need to move. Possibly without you.”
Marriage is a delicate dance with emotions and feelings that ebb and flow. Although I wouldn’t truly leave my husband over a harmless – or so he tries to convince me – snake, it does point out yet another difference of opinion between J and I. He sees the snakes as a helpful part of the local ecology, eating up bugs and causing no harm. While I feel the goose bumps race up my back just thinking of snakes living mere feet from where I cook and eat, and, in my mind, ready to strike at any moment. Finding ways to overcome our differences is what makes a marriage, and really any relationship, work. In our case, that involves talking it out. Here are a couple helpful tips when having this kind of conversation:
- Set aside time to talk when you can both focus on the issue. Talking via text during the work day is probably not going to resolve things in the best manner possible. It can also be hard to focus on a difficult discussion when actively caring for young children. Find time (after bedtime?) to really focus on each other and the issue.
- Table an issue if it becomes too heated. Some decisions may need to be decided upon quickly, but taking even 10 minutes to calm down can help get the conversation back to a good place and keep you moving forward.
- Be willing to give in. You can’t win everything, all the time. And part of a healthy relationship is – at times – conceding. Because you love your spouse, sometimes you have to let them have the final say. And because they love you, sometimes they will let you have the final say.
While we’re still negotiating how to handle the snake situation (moving is by far the best option, clearly), many issues we’ve faced, and will face again, aren’t as lighthearted, and stretch and strain our marriage. Having healthy boundaries in our disagreements help us move forward together and united.
What’s your best tip for handling conflict in marriage?