The idea for this article post occurred to me last week even as I was writing out my previous post, and it is a continuation of the thoughts on marriage that I expressed in the last couple of posts.
A quick summary: to be able to move forward in your marriage, you are sometimes going to just have to accept certain facts – and move on. There are certain things about which you will have to say “This is the case (about my marriage). There is nothing I will ever be able to do to change this particular thing. So there!”
Why this blog post: Have you ever heard anyone talk about the wrong decisions taken by their spouse, possibly decades ago?
“Sixteen years ago my husband turned down that great job offer that I urged him and urged him to accept, and I knew it was going to be a bad idea, and the family has struggled financially ever since….” or “When we first moved to this town in the early 90’s my wife refused to follow me to that church, where I could have been an associate pastor by now – the church she insisted on has gone through a bitter split and is now totally lacking in leadership…..”
Now the point of this is that often these examples will be dragged up, time after time, to illustrate how in a marriage, one decision has been crucial, and was managed badly, which was “the reason we’re in all this mess” OR to demonstrate how one spouse has been a paradigm of common sense and great judgement, while the other has often demonstrated weak judgement. Naturally the talker often attributes the good judgement to him or herself, while the spouse is blamed for the bad decisions that have plagued the family. When seeking to demonstrate that your spouse’s decisions have been lacking, usually a whole load of examples will be reeled off: “And there was that time when….and then was that time when….and don’t forget about…..”
Now the thing about this is that often the speaker will be right, objectively speaking. That is, they did demonstrate great foresight at the time of the crucial decision, they were right in making their objections known to their spouse, and they did try to make these objections in the most diplomatic and gentle ways they could, and their spouse did indeed demonstrate poor judgement and or poor character in making their decisions; perhaps the spouse was at the time led astray by pride or arrogance or any other of a huge range of human failings. So you know what, the fact might be that yes, your husband should have taken that job, he should have listened to your advice rather than his ego which told him he could get an even better job, and compete in terms of salary with his old uni colleagues. Yes, your wife should indeed have followed you to that clearly superior church – even at the time you knew that she was only insisting on this church because she wanted to be a leader of fashion (believe it or not readers, this is a HUGE factor in church life!)
So objectively speaking, you were “right” in the situations concerned and any rational person would analyse the situation and instantly see that you were right, and your spouse was clearly in error.
However, when we marry someone, we agree to accept them for life not only with their strengths, but also with their weaknesses; the times when their pride will prevail over their common sense – and we choose to remain committed to them “No matter what”. Being tied to another person in the intimacy of marriage means that many times their decisions will impact our lives; many times positively, but sometimes also negatively. I think we can almost guarantee that as human beings we will all sometimes take wrong decisions, even drastically wrong decisions. So sometimes our spouses will make wrong decisions, and refuse to listen to our wise and gentle advice, and then this will have a detrimental effect on the family, perhaps on an ongoing basis. I believe that maturity then says (to itself – perhaps grumbles to itself) : “This has happened, but to be blunt there is nothing we can do about it – so there! This is just the case, period – so there!” And then the thing to do is to forget about who might be right or who might be wrong in the particular situation, and throw yourselves in as a united entity to make the most of the situation, or “make lemonade from your lemons”. And it genuinely is to forget about assigning blame, to put it firmly out of your mind, so that it does not remain as something that you can whip up 20 years later to show that your spouse has been the one dragging the family down all along. I am sure that if you actively nurture even a single reminder in your mind of your spouse’s bad judgement, many other instances will quickly and effortlessly join it, and before you know it you have a whole mental dossier of your spouse’s failings.
When you say “….So there!” to any situation that may have happened in the past, it’s like you are drawing a big line under the subject, and freeing yourself to think positively of ways to improve your family situation.
I think that in addition to actual events that may have occurred, you might also have to “Write So There cheques (checks)” for certain characteristics of your spouse. Perhaps it has always irritated you or frustrated you that your spouse has…..wrong hair colour….wrong physique….wrong age….wrong political affiliation. I think that to move forward, there will come a time when you simply have to “get over it”, whatever “it” might be, and accept it, and move on, and refuse to let the issue play endlessly in your mind.
If you are married, and you recognise yourself in this situation, can I encourage you to try this out? I am not a qualified marital counsellor, and I am not trying to put myself in the place of a qualified marital counsellor, or suggesting that my advice should replace official counselling. Perhaps this is an idea to try in addition to official help: Make a list of all the situations that have been annoying you, caused squarely by your spouse or their stubborness etc. Perhaps also make a separate list of the characteristics that they have which have frustrated you. And then go through each item on both lists, and write a big “SO THERE!” next to each of these events that happened, or frustrating characteristics. And mean it as you write it, and say it aloud – “Yes my husband turned down that job and we have been struggling financially ever since, but it happened, SO THERE! ” “Yes my wife dragged me to that directionless church and we have had to go through a bitter split, but it happened, SO THERE!”
And then you have to sincerely let these matters go, and refuse to dwell on them or remember them, or find them again whenever you need to prop yourself up in an argument. They happened, but they are in the past. I think that every single marriage or any long term interaction between 2 or more human beings will have these mismanaged decisions.
Some of these things will be truly huge, seemingly unforgivable, but all the same you have to let them go, if you want your marriage to survive. “My spouse cheated on me with my best friend and conceived a child in that situation” “My spouse had a homosexual affair” (I’m not saying that homosexual adultery is worse than heterosexual adultery, but I’m sure that for many people it might be psychologically harder to deal with – as I repeat, I am not putting myself in the position of a qualified marriage counsellor…) “My spouse spent our entire life savings on a secret drug addiction…”
The difference between marriages or partnerships that are great and those that are not is not necessarily that the people in the great partnerships are better at making decisions than the people in the mediocre partnerships. I believe that people in great marriages are more accepting of their spouse’s human weaknesses, and refuse to turn situations into “You versus Me”, and they choose to remain united, no matter what.
This is a big lesson for me with my insistence on the essential criteria for my husband, but I also think that the less demanding you are before marriage, the more you will have to say “So There!” within it…. That is, with some of these issues, if you knew about them, or if you could have reasonably foreseen them before marriage, then they might have been significant enough to cause you not to marry that particular spouse. However, once you’re married, then you have to put up with these issues – this is why it is so important to be watchful and careful in the choice of spouse. 😉
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Photo of Children by Gellert on Pixabay