I remember our first argument. We had been married about 6 weeks. We had never had an argument in our short courtship and engagement, so this was definitely new territory for us.
He came home from work (we lived in a small apartment) and I had lost my job so I was depressed and wallowed in my sorrows most days. He walked in and asked why I hadn’t cleaned the house while he was a work. I was taken back to say the least. I explained that he made the mess just as I had, and we would both be doing the housecleaning. He then proceeded to play the “I am out making the money” card and I started to spontaneous combust all over that tiny apartment. How could he say that? How could he make me feel worse about the fact that I was trying to get a good job and hadn’t found one? We screamed, I locked myself in the bathroom, and he left. When he came back a few hours later, I was ready to talk about it, say I was sorry and make up. This is when I learned that this was not the way he had learned to handle disagreements.
He was a grudge holder and did not let things roll off his back. When he feels wronged, or his feelings are hurt, or even when he knows he is the one in the wrong, he climbs inside a hole and pouts. I remember going in to the bedroom to talk to him and he would not even speak to me. I told him I was sorry for getting angry, that I was over sensitive about not having employment and he just sat there watching T.V. like I wasn’t there. To me, this was worse than the original argument and a slap in the face! How can you truly love someone and not forgive them? Who wants to harbor feelings of ill will towards their spouse? I had always worked hard in my relationships with friends and family, to mend fences as soon as possible so that we could move on and not hold feelings of discontentment. This was the first time I had dealt with someone who would not do the same. I immediately thought this meant our marriage was doomed! He must not love me the way I love him.
Since then, we have worked through these differences and while neither of us completely changed the way we handle conflict, he has slowly changed his ability to go days with the punishing silent treatment, and he is now able to say I am sorry…sort of and sometimes.
We have talked about why he is the way he is, and he admits that this was the way he was raised. His family held grudges against each other and NEVER admitted they were wrong, even though they knew deep down that they were. He has extended family that, to this day haven’t spoken for 20 years and they don’t even remember what the original argument was over. My family was just the opposite. We were taught to “fake it until you make it” everything is fine even if it isn’t, just to keep the peace (this creates different problems and therefore, isn't perfect either).
For years, I would just say I was sorry, even though I knew I had done nothing wrong, just so we wouldn’t argue. After a few years of that, I had had enough and was ready for him to grow up a bit and take his licks like a man. I decided to play the game he had taught me, where I gave him the silent treatment until he finally gave in and asked what I wanted to do to fix the problem. At times he would even dare ask if I was ready to apologize! This would open dialogue for me to at least start to show him how much better it feels to forgive and forget. Sometimes, after an argument, I still actually walk him through an apology. It is like a painful thing for him to say the words “I am sorry.” I think it takes a bit of his soul every time he says it (or at least he acts like it does). I am also trying to show him that it is very easy to detect an empty apology, or just someone who is going through the motions in order to gain something (like sex for instance). This is a total no, no, and gets you nowhere.
We’ve been married over 16 years and while it certainly isn’t our only issue, it has been definitely one of our biggest hurdles in keeping our marriage happy and healthy.
Are you and your spouse different when it comes to how and when you like to “kiss and make up”? Or are you lucky enough not to have this as one of your ‘marital obstacles’?
Come see me at (Hiding from the Kids) where you will read first hand, our other bits of craziness and how we cope with them.