When our children were young, my husband and I had a big fight over an extremely important topic. He wanted me to wind up the garden hose daily after I used it to water the flowerbed, and I thought the hose was fine where it was.
Now if we’d lived in an impressive neighborhood, he might have been able to shame me into it; but most of the people in our neighborhood didn’t even mow until the grass was a foot tall. You may think that doesn’t matter—that I should have some pride in my own yard. But I was working part-time, mothering three children, and volunteering with three different organizations. I’m sure by now you understand a bit of how our argument went. The trouble was that our volume matched our conviction that each of us was right. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t care what we did as long as we shut up.
If we’d taken time to examine what was behind our argument, we may have had a chance at communicating in a way that we could understand each other. I’ve since come to realize that my husband got in trouble when he was younger for not rolling up the garden hose. He learned in his childhood home that good people roll up the hose. I, on the other hand, was raised in the country, where no one cared what you did with your garden hose. Until we were able to understand each other’s perspective, we weren’t able to talk about it rationally.
But the argument was also about more than a garden hose. It was about my being overextended and hitting a point of exhaustion. As we talked about it, that became more clear and explained why I reacted so strongly to his request about the garden hose.
Gary Smalley says in "Making Love Last Forever":
"Why such a high priority on communication? Because good communication is the key to what all of us who marry basically want … to love and be loved. We want to share our lives with someone who loves us unconditionally. We want to grow old with a mate who has valued us, understood us, and helped us feel safe in sharing our deepest feelings and needs. We want to make love last forever. And this type of loving relationship is most often attained by couples who have learned how to reach the deepest levels of verbal intimacy."
Or as it says in Romans 12:9-10:
"Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."
It would have been good to keep that in mind as my husband and I argued over the garden hose many years ago. We've come a long way in being able to talk to each other in a way that helps us understand why we are reacting as we are. It’s a nice stage in life to be in, but it took a lot of work to get here.
So if you are just starting out or have been married for years, take time to find out what the conflict is really about.