What to do When Bad Tension Happens to a Good Marriage

The last three months have been pretty hard on my family.  A lot of it had to do with me traveling too much for work and struggling to find the time to complete a challenging feature article.  Plus, the girls started school, which changed our whole routine, and my poor wife has gotten pretty sick a couple of times.  And as much as I hate to admit it, somewhere in the midst of all that stress, my wife and I stopped being our best selves with each other.

I don’t mean to say that we didn’t have good conversations, hold each other, and pray together; but in the middle of trying to stay afloat, we often found ourselves getting terse and testy and easily annoyed.  I realize this is normal for any married couple, but the fact that it’s normal doesn’t make it any easier.

Pulling out of that kind of simmering tension is hard for couples.  You lose track of whose fault the funk is, but you’re pretty sure the other person deserves at least 58% of the blame.  So you keep snipping and bickering and huffing until it either gets worse or somebody does something courageous like my wife did the other day.

We had just rushed around the house trying to get the girls ready to go somewhere; and after we got in the car, Raquel said, “Hey honey.”  This wasn’t just any “hey honey” – it was more like, I know we’re both irritated, and it would be easier to grit our teeth and ride along in silence; but I’d really like to reconcile if you don’t mind joining me.

“Hello,” I replied, but it was more like, I am too annoyed and tense to pretend I want to get along right now.  So I asked for directions to where we were going and kept driving.  But as we got closer to our destination, my wife said “hey honey” again; and her humility began working its way through my pride, eroding my obstinance and taking the fun out of trying to be right.

We got out of the car and were walking through the parking lot with our kids, when I gave her my arm and said, “You know, we could keep fighting.”

“That sounds like fun,” she said.

“Or we could turn this thing around,” I said.  “I mean, we’ve got to start somewhere.  This is as good a place as any.”

And that was the beginning of the end of the tension, which has lessened more and more each day since then.

Sarah Groves’ song Loving a Person puts it best,

There’s a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It’s a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces, baby
And only one makes us free
So hold onto me, and I’ll hold onto you
Let’s find out the beauty of seeing things through

If you and your spouse love each other but you’ve gotten in a funk, take a risk today.  Take the risk of saying “I’m sorry” without expecting an apology in return.  Reach over and touch your spouse’s hand – and if they pull away, wait a few minutes and try again.  But don’t let your heart give up.  As permanent as this state of tension feels, it doesn’t have to be.  You two have to turn this thing around at some point.  Might as well start now.

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