You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ’em…(Part 1)
One of the first disagreements The Husband and I had as a married couple was about the dishwasher. Yes. The dishwasher. He started putting dirty dishes in our dishwasher and just leaving them there. I couldn’t handle that. When I open the dishwasher I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the dishes inside are clean. I don’t care what your cutesy little sign says. I’ve been traumatized way too many times from using dishes out of the dishwasher that I thought were clean only to find out later that they were actually dirty.** Basically, I have trust issues when it comes to dishes, and I brought that baggage into my marriage.
It was a conflict, but it wasn’t a blood bath. No tears were shed. No doors were slammed. No voices were raised in a cross way. We simply disagreed about something and we talked it out reasonably, rationally, and respectfully. As far as disagreements go, it was a non-event. We should have won that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. We can talk about it nine years later and laugh because there were never any hard feelings. I was just disgusted. Really disgusted. I’m still disgusted, but that’s another post for another time.
It’s natural to disagree and it’s unreasonable to think that you’ll never have a disagreement with your spouse. You’re two people with two different sets of experiences, personalities, opinions, etc. and those things will come in to conflict. The issue isn’t having conflict. It’s how you deal with conflict.
Most, if not all, conflict happens because of a simple misunderstanding. That’s it. Something happened (or needs to happen) and the involved parties fail to reach a consensus about it. Conflicts become messy when emotions, values, and prejudices get mixed in. Sometimes the emotions, values, and prejudices are what cause the misunderstanding.
In the Battle of the Dishwasher, it was clear that we both had different values about when the dishwasher should be loaded. For me (as it is for a lot of women) there was emotional content attached to the misunderstanding. The emotional content for me in this situation was that I felt disgusted. Really disgusted. My disgust colored how I viewed and processed the entire episode.
When conflict arises, it’s often best to dial down, listen, and try to discover where there has been a misunderstanding. It requires a lot of talking. It requires work. Often times there are other feelings and ideas attached to the misunderstanding.
Building a healthy marriage takes work. It takes time. You have to lay down your right to be right in the name of preserving the relationship.
I’ve seen many relationships (both marriage and otherwise) damaged or completely destroyed because one or both of the parties were more concerned about winning than they were about being able to lay their head down in the bed next to the person they supposedly love.
In nine years of marriage, I’ve found that coming to a consensus is often way more important than being right. Sometimes you have to lay down your pride and preferences and do what will show your spouse love. Sometimes all your spouse wants is to be heard and to have their feelings validated.
**In my family, it was customary to rinse dishes off before putting them in the sink or in the dishwasher. This meant that some loads of dishes actually looked clean at a glance and individual dishes would look ‘clean’ even though they had only been rinsed.