I remember the first fight James and I had as newlyweds. I was not a good cook, but I had acquired a secret weapon to aid my culinary cause: a brand new George Foreman Grill. It looked easy enough – place the chicken in, close the lid, and allow the patented sloped design and nonstick coating to do the rest! I was going to make chicken, rice, and broccoli. This was a big event in my new bride life.
It was about 5:00 pm when James bounded into our small Dallas apartment on the fourth floor. “There’s a guy I passed on the way up,” he said. “He’s just moving in, why don’t we invite him over for dinner?”
There was no way I was having a guest for dinner. First, I didn’t have enough chicken for more than two people. Second, I was nervous about serving the dinner just to James, let alone a guest. Third, our apartment didn’t have much furniture and was in no condition for entertaining. Fourth, I am a planner while James is spontaneous, and this was not planned.
I clearly outlined these reasons to James and apologized that we wouldn’t be able to do it. I returned to slaving over my George Foreman Grill. About ten minutes later, James waltzed in the kitchen and announced with a twinkle in his eye, “Our new neighbor, Walter, will be up for dinner in a few minutes.” Didn’t I just say he couldn’t come? I was fuming! After I slammed cabinet drawers shut and set another place setting, the doorbell rang.
“Hello, Walter!” I said pleasantly. During dinner, I ate very little chicken and broccoli as Walter enjoyed my share. Right after Walter left and the door was closed, my smile immediately turned into a scowl, and I stomped into the kitchen.
James literally tackled me and threw me on the floor in Tigger-like fashion. He laid right on top of me and put his big grinning face close to mine and said emphatically, “I’m sorry!” I said, “Are you sorry because I’m mad or are you sorry because what you did was wrong and you won’t do it again?” He paused to think about that. After more fuming and talking, he said he was truly sorry and that he would not do it again. I accepted his apology and am happy to say that he has never brought someone home for dinner against my will. Case dismissed! (And Walter, if you’re out there somewhere, you’re welcome to come for dinner as long as you give me advance notice).
Fights with your spouse are inevitable. Two human beings who share life together are bound to disagree. In those moments, the happy wife does not seek to be right. She’s not argumentative by nature. She doesn’t automatically go on the attack. Instead, she seeks to resolve the matter at hand. She doesn’t act only in her own best interest. She looks out for the interest of her husband and the marriage.
There was a church marquee that read, “No matter how much you nurse a grudge, it won’t get better.” When we have been offended, we can rehearse those words or that scene over and over in our minds. We can hold on to our hurts. They even prove handy when we need justification to retaliate or to act coldly towards our husbands. We can boast about how hard we have it to others and receive a sense of importance because of our emotional pain.
But the Bible makes it very clear that we are not to hold grudges. We are not to allow that bitter feeling of resentment to build and grow strong. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 reads, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (NIV). As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus repeats it for emphasis in verse 14 and 15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).
The antidote to holding a grudge is to lavish forgiveness. When you’re tempted to withhold forgiveness from your spouse, consider this observation from author Sharon Jaynes:
Every time Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt him, Jesus didn’t try to outmuscle him, outshoot him, or outfight him, he just out-truthed him. And that’s what you can do. Every time Satan comes at you with a lie, you recognize that lie, you reject that lie, and just like Jesus you say, “It is Written.” And you stand on that truth whether you feel like it or not. It has nothing to do with feelings.
Satan may be feeding you lies about your husband. He doesn’t really love you. He never listens to you. He doesn’t make you happy. Instead of embracing these lies, respond with truth from God’s Word: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).
Will This Matter Tomorrow?
I was talking with author Diana Wallis Taylor at a writer’s event, and she gave me some terrific marriage advice. When she and her husband are having any kind of conflict, she asks herself simple clarifying questions. Is this worth making an issue of now and will it matter tomorrow? These questions give her tremendous perspective. When you realize it’s not a big issue that will matter in the future, it makes it easier to let go of your frustration. But if whatever is bugging you would matter tomorrow, then it is a bona fide conflict that needs to be dealt with at greater length.
Isn’t that a great question? When you feel yourself getting upset at your spouse, ask yourself: Will this really matter tomorrow? Naturally, I had an immediate opportunity to test this method just a few hours after hearing the advice. My family went to our first rodeo, and at the gate, we were told to throw away all our food. A rules keeper, I immediately tossed my apple slices in the trash. Plus, I figured I would just buy kettle corn inside the arena. James, however, pulled our family of five out of the line to quickly consume the other snacks we had brought from home. He asked me for the apples to which I replied quietly, “Um, I threw them away.” In disbelief he moaned, “How could you throw away perfectly good food? You know Pellicanes do not throw away perfectly good food! I was looking forward to eating those apples!”
I mirrored his disbelief and irritation and said, “I didn’t know we were going to eat outside of the gate. I was just doing what the man said. It’s not a big deal. Let’s just get kettle corn.” He was getting on my nerves, and I was on his. And the rodeo hadn’t even begun!
Then I remembered Diana’s advice and thought to myself, This will not matter at all tomorrow. It was over, and neither of us brought up the word apple for the rest of the evening (and the kettle corn was delicious).
It’s much easier to be a positive wife when you’re not holding any grudges. If you need help because you tend to keep a record of wrongs, try meditating on how love behaves:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NIV).
You know how water just rolls off a duck’s back? Picture the small things that irritate you about your husband just rolling off your back. Don’t dwell on them. Don’t make them bigger than they are. Instead…show him love.