Love and Marriage

Unsolicited Advice for My Sister #3: Fight Clean

Alex and I don’t fight alot- only if we’re both hungry or we’re playing board games. If we’re hungry and playing board games, then someone’s going to get their eyebrows scratched off.  Sometimes we start off “play arguing” and then it escalates into a situation.

EXAMPLE:

My car is my sanctuary. My dirty teenage girl neighbor (who once ate toilet paper for fun and likes to wipe her shoes on our couch) even knows not to leave trash in my car- when she does, she has to do it sneakily. My level of anxiety at the possibility of trash being left in my car is directly proportional to how I rank the trash on its level of repugnance.

Flat piece of paper (not crumpled)– minor distraction, same as receiving a text message

Free agent, unbagged, fast food trash (straw wrappers, big mac wrappers)- major distraction, same as receiving a call from President Obama while in traffic

Used Kleenex– major meltdown, same as losing consciousness while flying a jet

You get it, right? I’m super OCD about my car being spic and span. SO…

One night, I had gently reminded Alex about collecting his trash when the car came to a full and complete stop and he started getting on my case. What started out as joking quickly became deadly serious. Let’s join in:

Beth: All I did was ask you to take in every teeny tiny piece of plastic off of that conspiracy DVD that you ripped open.

Alex: Beth, I’m going to take my trash in. I always do.  You need to give it a rest.

Beth: No. Not always. A month ago, you left a straw wrapper on the floor under your seat. You know, why don’t you just spit in my car? That’ll show me.

(Alex leans over and spits in Beth’s cupholder.)

STAGE NOTES: While Alex means for it to be funny, Beth immediately starts weeping in shock, at which point Alex starts back-pedaling and saying, “I’ll clean it! I’ll clean it!” over and over.

We actually giggle about that particular fight every once in a while because it’s so ridiculous. I mean, who spits in someone’s cup holder?

Little sister, today’s advice is:

FIGHT CLEAN

Communication is SO SO SO important in marriage and most of your fights will stem from misunderstandings. Remember that one time that Grandmother and Grandaddy got into a fight because Grandmother said, “That woman  lives on Mistletoe” (meaning Mistletoe Lane, the street) and what Grandaddy heard (and understood) was, “That woman eats only mistletoe and nothing else”? Common misunderstanding.

I’m notoriously passive-agressive, which means I can give you my best “Oh, I’m not mad” face while flaying you alive in my head. I think some of this comes from the fact that I don’t want to talk about it right now but most of my passive agressiveness comes from my desire to hold some sort of “power” over you. If I’m mad at you, then I’m somehow better than you and that is easier than having to be humble and forgiving. It’s more fun to be the ailing woman who’s husband never takes out the trash, instead of the wife who realizes her husband has had a difficult week at work.

It has taken Alex and I awhile to learn what each others’ fighting style. He’s more jujitzu, while I prefer the Tai-chi style.  We duke it out in the arena he built in our backyard and charge tickets at the door. Just kidding. Alex would rather talk it out immediately, while I usually need a minute (or 10 or 500) to calm down. Sometimes, this in itself causes some disharmony (because he thinks I’m ignoring him and I feel like he’s being aggressive) but I think we’ve learned how to fight fair.

The book of Ephesians has a good passage on the subject of anger (chapter 3: verses 25-32):

 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26In your anger do not sin[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

For me, the most important virtue to remember mid-fight is humility. Most of my anger comes from quiet resentment that has been building up about things that don’t really matter (i.e. I’m keeping tally on who’s done the dishes this week and guess what… you’re behind, buster).  The best words to use in marriage are not “I love you”. They’re “I’m sorry.” Those little words will take you a long way, because that begins the process of reconciliation.

 Leah, I hope that you never have to go through the trauma of Tyler defiling your car like I did (although, let’s be honest, if Tyler spit in your car, it would probably land in a shoe or a tank top- it’s like a closet in there). But if you do, I pray that you’ll remember these words and you won’t singe his eyebrows off with your cigarette lighter.

(The {Unsolicited} Advice for My Sister series (or UAFMS) is meant for my younger sister who will be getting married in the summer of 2012. As her older sister, it is my duty to give her advice that she did not ask for. At least in blog form, she can choose to ignore it. If you want to read other blogs in this series, click on the “wedding” tag at the bottom of this post.)

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