I was hearing my wife, but not really listening to her. I could have used the high demands of my job, how tired I was, or all of the stuff I still had to get done as an excuse. It was no use. At the end of the day, it was completely my fault.
I had been leaving early in the morning, spending 8 hours at my office, then coming home and pulling out my laptop to write nearly every day for several weeks. My wife was taking care of our home, getting our children ready for school, planning meals, keeping up with laundry, running to IEP and doctor’s appointments, then ending her day helping our children with the abundance of homework they were each assigned.
She was tired. I was distracted.
For the first few weeks of the new school year, I didn’t notice. The reason? I was selfish. I was consumed with my own work, my own agenda, and my own wants. Finally, the bomb went off. As you can imagine, it wasn’t pretty. But I had myself to blame. I had allowed this to detonate. I could have prevented it. Kristin was gracious, however. She had allowed me to zone out until sheer exhaustion took over and she couldn’t take it anymore.
Something need to change. I needed to change. But the change I needed to make wasn’t as big, nor extensive, as you may think it needed to be. Really, I just needed a slight recalibration. I needed to intentionally tune in to what was happening around me.
If you look closely, often you can see a marital bomb in the making. After all, you know your spouse well, and when you really tune in you know what fills them up, empties them out, makes them feel appreciated, or frustrates them to no end. This is very true for the two of us. Over the years we’ve each detonated our fair share of bombs that could have easily been disarmed in advance had we taken a few important steps.
- LOOK. Tune in to the detonators. This is not easy to do at first, because you are learning to live with each other. Over the years, however, you can become tuned in to potential detonators. For instance, my wife likes everything to be in order in our house before we leave town or when our schedule is busy. I used to misunderstand this and even argue with her over it. I would brush it off like it was no big deal. But then I tuned in and really listened to her heart. She likes order. It makes her feel peaceful. When I tuned-in, it changed my attitude and it kept bombs from detonating.
- LISTEN. Pay attention to ticking clocks. Much like tuning detonators, listen for the timer on potential bombs before they expire and a detonation happens. Start your day by surveying the scene and asking yourself, “I know that things are busy right today, so what can I do to help my spouse with the stress of today?” When you listen for the ticking clock you can catch a bomb long before a detonation.
- KNOW. Have a working knowledge of their likes and dislikes. I have some close friends who got married a few years back. One thing that fascinated me about them was a choice the wife made before they got married. She found out what he liked and disliked and she researched it. She looked up stats on his favorite football team so she could understand why he liked that particular team. She even researched the things he didn’t like so she could have open conversations about them with him. How cool is that? How different would our marriages be if we did something like this?
- CHOOSE. Intentionally choose peace. It’s a simple choice you and your spouse can make. When things are heating up, and you’re running into misunderstanding, choose peace. Regardless of how emotional you may get over an issue, make the choice to be at peace. This will disarm more bombs than you can imagine. You also have to make the choice to fight fair. Don’t fight to win. Fight to find common ground as a couple who loves each other and chooses to live life together. Stop fighting against one another and start fighting for one another. Fight for your spouse’s heart. Fight for love. Work to find a common understanding.
Meeting In The Middle.
Here’s a question to ask yourself: “What if instead of preparing for detonation, I intentionally worked to prevent them with the choices I make?” It might sound a little obvious, but the truth is, we don’t ask a question like this very often. We try to backtrack and disarm after the detonation. It’s too late then. If both of you asked yourself this question, and chose to meet in the middle instead of hold your ground, how different would your marriage be?
A few years ago I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show and he had a caller on who had crossed the point of having hope that her husband would change. He had been having a money affair that was driven by an intense gambling addiction. As Dave talked with her he made a very valid point. He said that in every human being there is an emotional breaker switch. It is not easily flipped but when a person is pushed long enough, with no end in sight, the switch is prone to flip. Once that happens, it’s very difficult to reverse it. The damage is done. The consequences are irreversible.
The same is true with marital bombs. Once they go off, the damage is done. You cannot go back and un-say hurtful words. You can not un-make bad choices. There’s no way to retract the things you’ve said. They’re like a bullet after the gun goes off. No way to bring it back. But you can do everything in your power to keep detonations from happening in the first place.
Disarming marital bombs is about living in unity and growing as human beings, not coming out on top or winning the battle. In the end, it’s about achieving ultimate peace in your home and your marriage. Isn’t that worth it?
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Have you set off some marital bombs lately? How can you disarm them moving forward?