A while back, my wife and I were exhausted from a season of stress and anxiety, and it naturally started wearing on us. Somewhere in the midst of all that stress, we stopped being our best selves with each other.
I don’t mean to say that we stopped having good conversations, being affectionate and praying together, but in the middle of trying to stay afloat, we often found ourselves getting terse and testy and easily annoyed. I realize this is normal for any married couple, but the fact that it’s normal doesn’t make it any easier.
Pulling out of that kind of simmering tension is hard for couples. You lose track of whose fault the funk is, but you’re pretty sure the other person deserves at least 91 percent of the blame.
So you keep snipping and bickering and huffing until it either gets worse or somebody does something courageous like my wife did in the midst of the stress.
We had just rushed around the house trying to get the kids ready to go somewhere, and after we got in the car, Raquel said, “Hey, honey.” This wasn’t just any “Hey, honey.” It was more like, “I know we’re both irritated, and it would be easier to grit our teeth and ride along in silence, but I’d really like to reconcile if you don’t mind joining me.”
“Hello,” I replied, but it was more like, “I am too annoyed and tense to pretend I want to get along right now.”
So I asked for directions to where we were going and kept driving.
But as we got closer to our destination, my wife said, “Hey, honey” again; her humility began working its way through my pride, eroding my obstinance and taking the fun out of trying to be right.
We got out of the car and were walking through the parking lot with our kids when I gave her my arm and said, “You know, we could keep fighting.”
“That sounds like fun,” she said.
“Or we could turn this thing around,” I said. “I mean, we’ve got to start somewhere. This is as good a place as any.”
And that was the beginning of the end of the tension, which lessened more and more each day after.
Sarah Groves’ song "Loving a Person" puts it best: "There’s a lot of pain in reaching out and trying/ It’s a vulnerable place to be/ Love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces, baby/ And only one makes us free."
If you and your spouse love each other but you’ve gotten in a funk, take a risk today. Take the risk of saying “I’m sorry” without expecting an apology in return.
Reach over and touch your spouse’s hand -- and if they pull away, wait a few minutes and try again. But don’t let your heart give up. As permanent as this state of tension feels, it doesn’t have to be. You two have to turn this thing around at some point.
Might as well start now.