It was 1:00 am. With blood shot eyes I sat wringing my hands on our faux leather couch. The seams are busted on the edges so the puff is spilling out. I’ve contemplated putting tape over these eruptions but really…who wants to be THAT person. I sat contemplating whether or not I should mend the seams in the couch or just own the mess and cover it, maybe a pillow will do or that really cool washi tape that’s all the rage. That fateful night our couch became the backdrop for one of the realest fights we’ve had to date. Past arguments about leaving the milk out, or even what the kids can and cannot watch, faded into the background. Buried under these silly quarrels was something much more menacing and it had scratched its way to the surface that night.
“What do you think about our relationship?” he asked. As I tussled with the little fibers that sprung from the armrest, I mulled over that word, “relationship.” It seemed like an unimpressive way to describe what had become like the very air I breathe. The “relationship” seemed fine to me. I’ve had more good times than bad and I love him. We have beautiful kids and a great sex life, what more could I want? Is there more to this marriage thing?
It was clear that his answer didn’t match mine so I sat listening intently. “We’re not a team,” he said. . . . My knuckles tightened, gripping the sides of the faux leather; the holes puckered beneath the strain of my hands. Our fight had now entered the deep end. It had transcended the fact that he clips his toenails in inappropriate places or that he spends too much time on his X-box, he was telling me that there is something fundamentally wrong with our relationship and there was no amount of washi tape in the world to secure our broken seams.
“We are not a team.” I analyzed this for a moment, viewing the declaration from every angle. “You have your routine, I have mine, you have things you expect me to do, I have things I expect you to do, we are like two people who just do life well.” The words stung, evermore because they were true. It took a while for me to come to grips with the new reality of our brokenness, but slowly and surely I saw it too.
I had a family playbook in my mind that showed our positions. The kids are on offense and we played defense. In the back of that playbook was a list of stats where I had painstakingly compared everything that I do to what my husband does. I had a mental spreadsheet of how many times I cooked dinner and washed the dishes, how many times he didn’t do something he said he would do, how many diapers I had changed, how many times I had taken on a task that he usually does, and I had a special section to count how many times he had been cruel towards me. It was all there, locked and loaded for the appropriate time to justify myself. The goal of my playbook was to ultimately prove that I was better than my husband. I wouldn’t have said this outright but my playbook had all the stats to back up my claim to fame. I thought that I was stockpiling praise as a selfless mother and wife; in actuality I was ruining my marriage.
You cannot act selflessly when you are keeping score. You cannot be a martyr for your family while expecting reciprocity. I created a saintly image of myself full of love and hard work. However, I just did what I had to do and I checked my scorecard throughout the day to verify that I was ahead. All the while I had become embittered towards my husband. This embitterment eventually bled into my actions and slowly but surely I was driving a wedge into my own happily ever after.
Now when you enter my home you still won’t find a fairy tale. But you will find giggles and dance parties and lots of shoes on the floor. There is frustration, beauty, and sadness, temper tantrums and lots of apologies within these walls. You’ll also find that we still have that busted couch, yet it’s safe to say, after that long night and a little dose of reality, we no longer have a busted marriage. It’s not perfect, but little by little the seams are coming together as we try to work as a team. My mission is simple, instead of meticulously tallying my acts of service against his, I strive to out-serve him with the intent of loving him fully. If I’m tired I try to push a little more. If I have the time and energy I jump in on a task that he typically does. All in all, I try to conform the way I love to match the biblical example God has given us.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”