Last night was the kickoff to our 3 Year Anniversary week. So naturally we got into a big nasty fight at 10pm. Perfect. We were going round and round, and with every pass, we were getting madder and madder and meaner and meaner until I reached the point where literally all I could think was “Ugh, I hate you.” And all I could say was “You’re a real snarky jerk sometimes. Bravo!” (Cue self-righteous stomp off to the bedroom to cool down.)
Thankfully, we are also battle tested. And we love Jesus. So though I really felt like I hated him in the heat of that moment, I knew that my mind just needed to be renewed. I needed to defuse my anger and I trusted that despite what my “feelings” were telling me, my feelings were not the truth. The truth is my husband is an amazing man with a heart of gold, who adores me and who I adore. So I opened up my journal and literally wrote myself through the steps I needed to take until I had finally reached a place where my anger was defused and I was back madly in love with my husband. Turns out for me there were 5 steps. This is word for word what I wrote in real time. Before you begin, you will need to take out some paper and a pen. You are going to use these steps to help write a letter to your husband. And here we go…
STEP 1) Describe how you feel about him and why you’re angry in language above a 5th grade reading level. What I mean here is, elevate your mind to a place where you don’t simply settle for words like “hate, jerk, you suck, etc.” Take the time to flesh out the sophistication of your feelings without name calling.
Nathan, I’m frustrated and exasperated because I didn’t feel like you were hearing my hurt & offering up hope like you wanted to be my hero in the situation. I felt like instead you were defending where you felt I was criticizing you & then turning around and attacking me back.
STEP 2) Take one or two sentences & for this short bit try to forget he just hurt you. Depersonalization is SO powerful in marriage. Write to him now like you’re one of his best buddies trying to see the situation from his perspective so you can be a good friend, empathize, and lift him up. This is where your heart may want to resist. Don’t let it.
I understand you obviously felt attacked and that never feels good. It’s really hard to just listen and be there for someone when they’re criticizing you. I know you’re a good man with a good heart. I think you’re just on empty yourself so you probably don’t have much to give in this situation. You probably just need some time with God to be nourished spiritually and fill up your own air tank.
STEP 3) Now that you have forced yourself to empathize and be his friend for a second, THIS is your chance to really cut the head off the hate! Remember back to the points of attack that he may have thrown at you during the fight. These are the things that really pissed you off because they had an air of truth and you maybe couldn’t think of the best comeback in the moment. Confess those things & as many times as possible, lead with every man’s 3 favorite words: “You were right.”
You were right. I have been doing a poor job at setting the stage for the connection time I’ve been complaining about missing. I need to do a better job at making that time with you a priority myself, even before the dishes or cleaning up the house. You’re right, it’s not fair of me to put chores first and then leave you to pursue me in some meaningful way in the dregs of our day when our energies are spent. I hear you when you say that you feel overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities. You’re right, I could be a better help to you in meeting my needs. I also understand that my complaining and negativity aren’t inspiring you, they’re deflating you.
STEP 4) Wow! You did it! I know that was not easy! Ok now you’re almost there! Step 4 is where you tell him what YOU–and only YOU– can do differently to help improve the situation that lead to this big nasty fight in the first place. You won’t just be giving him hope here, this is your chance to breathe hope back into your heart too!
I’m going to start bringing more of my struggles to God & mom friends that are better able to relate. Basically, I’m going to stop complaining to you so much. I know that’s probably been really toxic for you and left you feeling like I’m not content with this life you’re working so hard to provide for us, which is not the case. I’m also going to start setting the stage for us to have more quality time together. I’ll make sure that the dishes and tidying the house always come after we’ve had our connection time together. I’ll leave the housework for the dregs of our day so that we can connect while we still have the energy, and not the other way around.
STEP 5) Ok, so I don’t know about you but that REALLY worked! My blood pressure has returned to normal, the black rage has drained from my eyes, and I genuinely no longer feel like I hate my husband lol! It’s a miracle! Last step now is to break any remaining tension that may be there when you read him this letter by telling him some things that you like–dare I say LOVE–about him. You can be blunt. You can be silly. *Bonus points if you can make him smile or even laugh when you read this part to him.
You’re a really sweet husband & daddy! And you show me all the time how you really care about my heart. Thank you for all you have invested into our lives together. I think you are a truly top notch quality man above men. And I love your eyes. And your facial hair. And your face. And your butt! And I love you and I’m really happy I married you. You’re the ONLY man I’d ever want to have big fat ugly Anniversary fights with.
I understand that these steps won’t work for every couple or every fight, but if you and your husband are both good hearted people who have some foundation of love there, it should really help. I pray it does. There’s nothing worse than hating the person you’re supposed to be one with. Hopefully these steps help to renew your mind in the heat of the moment and bring you two closer together again! When it does, I urge you to seal that love right then and there with some good ol’ marriage glue–because really, is there anything better than makeup sex! 😉
And now because today is our Anniversary, I do want to take a moment to gush on my man. Turns out while I was in the bedroom writing these steps and my letter to him, he was in the dining room writing a letter to me. When he came back into the bedroom with his letter I was just wrapping up. He asked if he could give me his letter, and I told him I had written him a letter too. I asked if I could read mine first, because I knew that reading it to him would really set the mood to help me receive his letter. He responded hesitantly… “Ok, but I hope it’s not too bad because my letter to you is reeeeeeeally sweet.” LOL! I love that man! So he got into bed and I read him my letter. I DID make him laugh at step 5! Woohoo bonus points! At the end, I looked over at him and my sweet slow processor just looked back at me with his eyes a little teary eyed and smiling, and he said, “Thank you so much. That really meant a lot.” (<– Now that might not sound like much but from my husband, those were words of deep sincerity and total victory!) Then he asked me to read his letter. And because I am me… and because I am pregnant… I cried through most of it! I was just so amazed as I poured through his words and realized that he just naturally had checked off all 5 of the steps I had just pulled myself through. It dawned on me that he has ALWAYS responded to our fights with these steps. I haven’t. Especially in the beginning. It’s taken me 3 years to get here, but this has ALWAYS been his heart… to see the best in me, defuse his anger, and bring us closer in the end. Gosh I love that man.