Exactly one week before my wedding, my then fiancé and I had a pretty big fight, and the way it happened proved to me that we were ready for marriage. Allow me to explain.
He had just gotten a new work-from-home job, and he mentioned to me he was worried he might lose touch with one his guy friends from work. It could be an “out of sight, out of mind” type of situation, he thought, and that disappointed him.
I am close to this co-worker’s girlfriend, so I texted her asking to make sure that they still invited us to things. I mentioned my husband was worried that it would be easy to forget us since we weren’t in their day-to-day lives anymore.
This was no big deal to me, as I would have done this with any of my friends if I was the one worried. My husband, however, is a very private person, and sharing his feelings like this makes him feel very uncomfortable.
Later that day, my husband told me that this guy friend had texted about hanging out. My husband is a very smart man. He had his suspicions about his friend reaching out on the same day that he expressed his concerns to me. As we talked, I eventually confirmed I had reached out to his co-worker’s girlfriend about his worries.
Cue the very tense twenty-four hours from the evening of my admittance to the evening of the next day. When I realized how upset he was, it broke my heart. I also began to get anxious about our relationship, worried that we wouldn’t ever be the same again. But as we fought and resolved our conflict, I discovered two very valuable lessons I was meant to have reinforced as we headed into marriage.
01. Remember to think about the other person first.
As I stated, my husband and I have very different approaches to how we process feelings. If I am struggling with an emotion or situation, many people in my life are aware of it. I find talking to others very helpful to solving my anxiety. My husband, on the other hand, only likes to share his emotions, especially his anxieties, in the context of very trusted relationships. I’m, of course, the first of his trusted confidants. He didn’t like feeling vulnerable in front of his friend.
My knee-jerk reaction was to tell him this wasn’t as big a deal as he thought it was. Thankfully, I didn’t say that. Because I recognized that, to him, it was a big deal, and I couldn’t downplay that. Instead, I told him, “I understand. I’m sorry. It’s a big deal for you, and for me it’s not. But I should have thought about you and not me.”
Over the course of our marriage there will be many instances when we’ll want to support and help each other through various situations. The most effective way to show that support is to think about the other person first. I knew my husband doesn’t like to share his anxieties with many people. He trusted me with that information and was looking to me for moral support, first. I did what I would have wanted, instead of what he wanted. Going forward, when he opens up with a worry or some other emotion, if I feel the need to act on his behalf, I should stop and consider what he’d like. And if I don’t know, I should ask him, “How can I best care for you in this?”
02. We will learn how to fight effectively (and differently) than in the past.
We hear often: Marriage is a marathon not a sprint. To that end, we didn’t handle this conflict perfectly, but we handled it better than in the past, and the end result was a stronger, healthier relationship. And we have the rest of our marriage to keep perfecting our relationship and conflict resolution skills.
In the aftermath of my admission, I had apologized to him, reassuring him that I would never do something like this again. We talked about how we knew we could never promise each other we wouldn’t hurt each other. We’re human, and conflicts in relationships are inevitable. I knew I had done all that I could to let him know that I was repentant and would do better, and he had affirmed he loved me and that we would be OK.
However, I felt a distance in our relationship. I found myself not sure I could tell him other things going on in my life during those twenty-four hours: Like a promotion I got at work. In the past, I may have kept these concerns and anxieties to myself, convincing myself I was being too “girly.” This time, I let him know how anxious I was about our relationship.
This talking out our anxieties was already leaps and bounds healthier than any of my past relationships. Because I opened up about my concern, I also learned more about him and how he manages conflict and hurt feelings.
My husband explained that he gets quiet when he’s upset, but that time and a little space allows him to heal. In the past, I would have clung to him, as a way to appease my own anxiety. In this instance, I gave him the space he needed to handle his emotions, so that we could get back on track. Since they were his emotions and not mine, I just had to wait.
Sure enough, a few hours later, he came up to me and asked to cuddle. The rest of the days leading up to our wedding were stressful, but not because of our relationship!
I had always imagined the days before my wedding would be blissfully full of love and affection between my fiancé and me. Now that our pre-wedding fight is behind us, I see that conflict is exactly what we needed instead. Love in marriage is sometimes warm and affirming, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable, as it stretches us to put our own self aside for the needs of another person. We’ll learn how to keep the pace, getting stronger together as we continue to run toward each other.