The Two Hardest Things About Fighting

868464-a-beautiful-middle-aged-couple-tenderly-embracing-eachother--they-are-very-much-in-love--black-backg     Some say marriage gets easier as we age. I say it gets tougher. What do you think? I say maintenance of anything gets harder with our age as well as its age. Think of a hotel. When you drive by, it’s fairly easy to tell if it is old. And sometimes that is what you love about it. Outdated style or charming antique? Walk into the lobby. What hits you there? Stale, smoky, over-stuffed mustiness? Or lemon oil delightfully overtaking your senses? In the rooms worn carpet or cracks in the bathroom may spell age. But they mostly spell neglect. Without a doubt, ground-in corner dirt, leftover human presence hanging in drapes around the windows, these have to do with maintenance.

     So old in itself is not the problem in marriage. It’s maintenance that gets dicey. Time doesn’t remove accumulated offenses, fights that weren’t resolved, the backlog of undiscussed importances, or the trivial nothings that slowly drip, forming stalagmites- calcified somethings.

And though scary, fighting is an important part of maintenance. Our fallen nature clashes with the marriage goal to mirror the love between Christ and us, His Bride. Conflict, therefore, whether hidden or open, is unavoidable as long as we reside in this body on this earth.

Yet we do avoid it. And marriage gets harder. In claiming to “die to self” we somehow often die to intimacy also. For isn’t intimacy the deep knowing of the other? In intimacy I reveal who I am at any given moment- my hopes, desires, pains, and joys. And that takes risk. I know I’m a mess, don’t think selflessly all the time. What to do? Speak up and seem petulant, selfish? Or be quiet and feel more godly? Sometimes the loneliness of the latter is overwhelming. I want closeness.

But in reaching for closeness, we clash.  And the cleanup, there’s the rub. If I’m willing still to risk entering the fray after all these years, these are the two toughest parts.

           Saying I’m sorry when I’m 100% sure I was right all along.

     Why do I have to say I’m sorry when I’m right? Because I am a sinner, and miss the log in my eye, digging out the speck in his. Because the relationship is more important than my being right. The last time we fought, my husband was the first to say he was sorry. Good, I thought. He was wrong.  But now, after reflection, he was more godly, for I was partly wrong and refused to say it. Who was the one most afraid of the ground opening up if admitting wrong? Ouch.

     But the tougher part is:

        Fully forgiving when I don’t even know what that looks like any more.

In the early years we would go to bed. We made love and that mysteriously hit a reset button. Back to square one. Were things really resolved? Maybe not. But for the time being we were friends, buddies, and lovers again. Deep breath…. so nice.

But after twenty, thirty years, the testosterone doesn’t always kick in like it used to. Sometimes we hold each other at night and wonder if the other is still mad. We wonder why that ugly exchange. We’ll think twice before getting into that again.

But I want to be forgiven and I want to forgive. Fully.

In my “old hotel” I want the corners scrubbed, the curtains laundered, and the lemon oil permeating every square inch of the place. I want love to draw me into his arms– and know the deep sense of forgiveness on both sides.

     Why is that so hard?

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Joan Reid

I love the Lord.

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