Conflict with a spouse or partner is an inevitable part of any relationship. Over the years, my ability to handle these conflicts has improved tremendously. I hope my husband can agree with this last statement because if he doesn’t, we may be facing some of the very conflict I’m writing about. In all seriousness, I know I have grown in this relationship area and thankfully, so has my husband. We are not one of those couples who ‘never fight’, we simply seem to disagree less and when we do, we move past it more quickly.
Our last disagreement was short-lived. It centered on how we would be spending our time. We decidedly had very different ideas. While I thought we had agreed to a quiet night in instead ended up being a social hour with friends that went on far longer than I had anticipated. I did enjoy my time with our friends, but I also had my heart set on some time for the two of us. In my mind, with my husband’s work schedule and family obligations taking up so much landscape in our lives, I firmly believed some time for the two of us was what was needed. It’s not that my husband didn’t see this logic, we ran out of time. There weren’t enough hours in the day to accommodate both activities. At first, I was absolutely fuming and took our loss of time together extremely personally. Then, in a matter of about twenty-four hours I was able to shift back to a peaceable perspective.
The first thing I realized is that I was taking this whole incident way too personally. I felt hurt and angry initially, but upon further review I saw that this was covering up that I felt rejected. I felt like I wasn’t important to my husband and I know this isn’t true. He does so many kind and thoughtful things for me throughout our daily lives that I know that I matter to him. It was never about his lack of wanting to spend time with me, it was that our schedule didn’t allow for it. By reframing the conflict this way I was able to take ownership for how I felt and was able to reach for forgiveness more quickly.
In all fairness, my husband did apologize. It helps to move forward if both parties involved take responsibility. I was fortunate that he acknowledged how I felt. Even so, I had another moment when I realized that by clinging to my angry story about how things should have been, I was robbing myself of peace. By investing my time and energy on finding all the reasons I was ‘right’ and he was ‘wrong’, I was stressing myself out. It did not feel good so I stopped. Instead I focused on the whole of our relationship and looked for evidence as to why our relationship works most of the time. This helped me soften my view towards my husband and again, forgiveness was easier to find. When it comes down to it, my husband works and travels extensively, so what little time we have together, I’d rather focus on the good stuff so we can enjoy each other’s company.
Finally, it all came down to this. If I could forgive and let go this also means that I can be more forgiving towards myself. I certainly am not a perfect wife. I make mistakes all the time. When we are able to acknowledge our own imperfections, it allows space for our partner to have imperfections. This is the framework for peaceful coexistence with another person. In the end I wasn’t right and he wasn’t wrong. We were two people that had a misunderstanding and moved on. That feels so much better than the alternative.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent