A few nights ago I frantically woke my husband by screaming and slapping him in the face. As he swatted and searched himself for spiders, he kept asking if I was just dreaming. I insisted it was not a dream. I was convinced he had spiders all over him, including in his hair.
As we stood in our dark bedroom swatting spiders off, I suddenly realized it was in fact a dream. Not only did I wake him up in the middle of the night, I did so while mirroring screams from a horror movie.
He said I attacked him. I insisted it was a silly accident. We went back to bed, but neither of us slept.
It’s a funny story to tell now. However, we realized that our contrast in emotions, even though my spider dream was in fact a dream, was more than that.
We knew that there was a build up of repeat offenses that weren’t being addressed, and we needed to dig in and deal with them.
Sometimes repeat incidents from one spouse toward the other can take a toll on a relationship. This strain might appear in situations as small as how to load the dishwasher correctly, or which direction the toilet paper should be facing. Deep down it’s usually not about the toilet paper or the dishwasher. Often, it’s about one spouse feeling unheard or unseen. Ongoing incidents that are not addressed often cause frustration, which can eventually lead to bitterness.
Ongoing incidents that are not addressed often cause frustration, which can eventually lead to bitterness.kristin milner
Broken marriages are typically not a result of one big fight. More often, they are a result of small things piling up over the years that stay unaddressed.If we neglect to address these issues as they come, we risk dealing with a pile built too high.
How can we prevent these small frustrations from piling up and causing bitterness over time? Below are four actions we have found helpful.
Consider the real problem behind the frustration. Take the time to seek God and ask Him what it is about the issue that is bothersome. Is it truly about the dishes, or was the level of upset an indicator that you feel unappreciated and are in need of help? Evaluate both their actions and your expectations. Were they acting in sin against you? Or did they accidentally act in a way that simply annoys you? Is it possible there are unrealistic expectations on your part that cause the other person to continue not measuring up?
Without taking the time to process, we risk talking about an issue that won’t actually resolve the real issue. So in one week, even if your husband has helped with the dishes each night, you’re still exhausted and are now in need of more help – so then you become frustrated by other things. Identify the real issue first.
*Note: Consider if the action is done on purpose. Is your spouse intentionally doing something (or not doing something) to hurt you? Is your spouse unintentionally frustrating you? Is this tied to personality differences? Past differences? Are there any reasons your husband feels discouraged and therefore is hesitant to change? Consider these questions with God or ask your husband. When issues are due to personality differences, we can ask for adjustments and extend more grace in that area at the same time.
Share feelings but don’t attack. When someone makes continued mistakes, especially on accident, it can wear on everyone involved. Sit down with one another and talk about how these events make you feel. Often, the person who is continually making these innocent mistakes feels as disappointed as the person who is receiving the brunt of them. Discuss together how you could both work together to feel better about the situation going forward.
Forgive your spouse. Forgiveness can be difficult, especially when it’s regarding a repeated incident. Sometimes we feel as though we are having the same conversation over and over, yet nothing is changing. If this is the case, ask your spouse if there is anything you can do to help them. Also ask yourself if this issue is worth continuing talking about – is this a preference issue you can forgive and move on from for good? Or is this a hurt that needs to stop and need to see behavior change as fruit of the repentance?
*Note: Forgiveness is different from reconciliation. Ongoing sin is different from forgetting to help with the dishes or do the dishes a particular way. Watch this video for more on the issue.