Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

commit to staying in the fight

Today Rajdeep Paulus talks about how in marriage, we need to commit to staying in the fight with our spouses. There are rich rewards to be discovered!

Standing at the ticket counter at Miami International Airport to check in for our return flight to New York City, the Jet Blues Attendant shakes his head several times before saying, “I’m sorry. There’s no record of your names booked on this flight. Or at all for that matter.”

Words hubby and I don’t exactly want to hear when the plane takes off in less than an hour. It has to be a mistake. I’m just not ready to admit that it was probably my mistake. “Can you double check?” I say, watching hubby’s eyebrows raise in disagreement.

But then he says, “Yes, could you please double check? I’m sure this is just some kind of error.”

“Nope. Oh wait…” A flicker of hope. “I see that you did book a different flight. Out of Orlando. But you cancelled that one.” Hope extinguished.

I’m starting to wonder if I only thought about booking the alternative leg of our return flight, and didn’t actually do it. Even though in my memory, I followed through and finished the job.

Hubby looks at me and I know what he’s thinking as he shakes his head, but in a moment that could have gotten Walking Dead bloody, he says nothing. Several grueling minutes later, the gentleman working on our situation hangs up the phone and smiles. “It’s your lucky day. My boss agreed to rebook your family at the original price, but this flight’s full, so you’ll be on the 9:00PM one out of Gate C-8. Will that work for you?”

Umm…yes to the yes! Anything besides paying astronomical prices for a last second reservation or staying in Miami when we need to get home will work. Hubby exhales a sigh of relief, and brushes a kiss across my lips, saying softly, “Thanks for keeping quiet while he worked it out.”

Which I wanted to take offense at, because I’m the girl who screams when I’m upset.

I freak out, and I’m good at it. But I refrain from saying anything, because I’m in a different sort of shock. We, hubby and I, in the middle of a Bermuda-Triangle sized crisis, did not freak out and enter a blame game tennis match that never ends well. And as much as Hubby wanted to say the obvious, that it was most probably my fault that the tickets were never booked, he didn’t. He could have. He would have been right. But in that moment, the fact of my careless oversight would not have changed a thing. We, as in he, I and the kids, were in this mess together, and never once, in the middle of a mud pile has throwing mud made the situation less messy. If anything, it makes matters worse. Much worse.

And then the other night, we’re driving away from a lovely anniversary dinner at Prime in Huntington, and Hubby says, “So I accidentally booked three movie tickets instead of two when I bought the X-men seats on line.”

I took a deep breath, wanting to ask the obvious. “So you didn’t try to reverse it? Call Fandango? Cancel the transaction and book it over?” I refrained, and in that moment, when the matter of a fifteen dollar oversight could cost us a fifteen hour angry end to a near perfect date night, I Google’d Fandango and asked myself. They directed me to call the movie theater.

And a guy at Regal Cinemas in Westbury said, “No worries. Just mention the problem when you come up to pick up your tickets and we’ll refund the difference.”

Really? That was fun. But it might not have been. So often, hubby or I put on our boxing gloves and lash out verbally, throwing plenty of punches before we recall that we’re on the same team. In this life together. Trying to make it through this mess of a world. Together.

Three days later, we’re on route to a picnic with the kids on Memorial Day weekend, and we get into the classic driving fight.

Because I rarely drive, and Hubs wants to be my driver’s Ed teacher, my dad, and my GPS, all wrapped in one. So it gets ugly. Fast. And we’re only half way there when I pull over on a side street, throw on the brakes and exit the car. “I can’t. I can’t do this. I refuse to drive.” Slam.

Hubs pulls his baseball cap over his eyes and slouches down in the passenger seat. He’s getting over the flu. And from the looks of his non-verbal communication, he isn’t driving either.

So I blow off some steam outside the car, get back into the driver’s seat and spin the car around. Rather unsafely, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t planning to drive my family off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. I was just having a road rage moment for about fifty feet of quiet side street. Hubs did not approve, sat up in his chair, and demanded I stop the car. With a few choice words. I did. We switched places.

He drove. I cried. And in the midst of the madness, my ten-year old passes me my phone with a text message she typed for me. “No one’s mad at you, Mommy. We love you. And we can still have a great time at the picnic. Okay?” I cry some more.

And we get through the day. Hubs walked to the beach with the girls. I grilled up some food. The festivities carried on with friends. Then I drove home, and the day was over. And when all the girls went to bed, hubby says, “That was not cool today.”

I want to say, “You. We’re not cool today.” But I just wait.

“I’m sorry for screaming at you like that in the car,” he says. “If you would just listen to me…”

And that’s when I tune out, because it doesn’t feel like an apology any more. I apologize for slamming the car door. But then I add, “You know, you could have said sorry a little sooner,” to which he pushes back his chair, rises from the table, and says, “I’m not you, okay. I never have been, nor will I ever be. You can do that. Roll with it. Jump back into life right away. That’s not me.” And he storms off.

That went well. And then I thought about it. I wasn’t asking him to be me. I was asking him to acknowledge that it wasn’t just me who screwed up. He can take all the time he needs to forgive me. But I don’t think it’s fair to take his sweet time to say sorry. That was my point.

We talked some more as I explained my side. And told him how I don’t want our girls to grow up thinking a man can just run them over with words and walk away, never admitting that he spoke disrespectfully. He shot me a glare. “You have no idea what I talked to the girls about when I walked with them to the beach.” That’s true. I assumed he didn’t talk about it. “I apologized to them for the way I spoke to their mother.”

But, and this is the part that hurts. “But, you took all day to say sorry to me. That kinda sucks.”

And he acknowledged that. And we went to bed in each other’s arms. Life was fine again. But, sheesh, is it hard some days.

Like it takes all of you just to commit to staying in the fight.

And that’s the part that makes us stronger the next morning. We stayed. We chose to stay, even when we didn’t feel like it. We pushed through another mud pile, and in the end, we helped pull each other out. And believe you me, I know there are plenty more in our future to wade through.

But it’s the moments at the airport and on route to the movies that remind me that we don’t always resort to our bad habits. We don’t always forget how hard it is to mess up and wait for grace’s rescue. Sometimes, we remember the sweet hand held out to us in the moment of disappointment, hurt, or failure, and we offer a similar hand to our loved ones. It’s a life long quest, but it’s worth every step.

And that’s probably why I love to slow dance with my Sunshine. Sure, sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

And many times, we are out of sync, he turning right and me spinning left, but those tender moments when my head rests on his shoulder, his heartbeat pounds against mine, and the lyrics to a love song stream into my ears, I’m reminded once again that he’s worth it. We’re worth it. And worth fighting for. Marriage.


Rajdeep PaulusswimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s also a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via FacebookTwitterPinterest,Tumblr, or Instagram.

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  1. Newlywed says:

    Good article for me to read today. I’m 46, he’s 55. His first marriage, my second. We’ve been married less than a week. When he got home from work yesterday, he was not wearing his wedding ring. I asked him about it. He said it takes getting used to??? I shut down. I don’s like conflict or arguing. I went to the bedroom and closed the door while he had to run a couple errands. Before he left, he showed me he was now wearing it. It had been in his pocket. What should I think about this? I feel I went one step back and a tiny piece of my heart broke off.

    • Melissa says:

      Aw sweetie. If it makes you feel any better, my hubby and I have been married for seven years and he still forgets to put his wedding ring on sometimes! It’s nothing personal, he just gets in a rush and things slip through the cracks. He has forgotten his cell phone, his wallet, left the house with two different shoes on, all manner of things. For a man who has gone his whole life without wearing a ring it would be easy to forget to slip it on in the morning. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you, just one of those things that happen when you’re going through your usual morning routine on auto-pilot. It will become part of his routine over time. In the meantime try to laugh about it, and then slide the ring onto his finger yourself and give him a kiss. That’s what we do. :-)

      • Newlywed says:

        Thanks, Melissa. I’m just real sensitive about things like that. I get my feelings hurt and cry more lately. Maybe it’s pre-menopause kicking in.

        • I’m with Melissa. Don’t let things get to you that are symbols. Focus on the daily actions of loving each other. I can’t lie. I forget to wear my ring all the time, partially because I can’t sleep with jewelry on, so my day sometimes starts with a bang and jewelry doesn’t take high priority.

          I remember those newlywed days. Everything mattered like the end of the world. Looking back, I see how insecure I was and just how time and tried years together gives a whole lot of perspective to what really matters at the end of each day.

          Rajdeep Paulus recently posted…Latest Reviews, Guest Posts, and WaterfallsMy Profile

        • Don’t feel bad. I take my ring off every evening when I come home from work and I don’t put it on again until I go back to work or leave the house to go somewhere. But then I wear it. I have been married for 17 years and for a number of years my ring got displaced, and we bought new rings last year.

    • Alchemist says:

      My mom and dad’s been married like 31 years and I’ve never, ever in my life seen either of them wear a wedding ring. (I’m 27).

      I’ll probably forget to put it on all the time too. I don’t wear rings, and I do have to wear gloves all day for my job.

      It’s probably really nothing. :)

  2. Thank you, I really needed to read this today.

  3. Melissa says:

    My husband and I are trying to work on this right now. I’m very reactive and easily explode in situations, whereas his tendency in conflict is to go dead calm. If we had a situation like yours at the airline ticket counter, our response is I say “I’m gonna let you handle this one babe” and I walk away if I feel myself getting worked up. No use causing a scene. Then he calmly handles it. Sometimes we reverse roles and I’m the one who stays calm and he gets angry, and then I handle it. But what we’re working on is not taking our frustration out on each other when things beyond our control happen.

    Now when we’re sniping at each other…that’s a different story…in the past year my husband has been on medications for chronic pain that can affect his mood, and my moods were up and down and up and down as I deal with mild depression and severe PMS. We couldn’t always control our responses to each other. That’s not an excuse, just to say that we’ve had to re-learn how to deal with conflict. Thank goodness we have a good counselor and a good doctor who helps us find the right med dosages. And for the book “Parenting with Love and Logic” which has brought us onto the same page in parenting and reduced conflict in that area!

  4. This is such a beautiful picture of marriage. No marriage is perfect. We all have our good days and bad. Our missteps. But we find a way to work through and beyond these incidents-moments-measures of time because to make a marriage work is so worth it. I love this. Thank you for sharing. 😀
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  5. Loved this! I have so much to learn, and so much to put into action, but it helps to know we’re not the only ones who have these “mud piles” in our marriage. He’s soooo worth fighting for! I need to remember that next time I want to lash out at him. 😉

  6. Such an encouragement! Wading through the thick of it right now. God has been revealing some things to me about how I treat my husband. It has been very humbling! Working on improving my habits. But also praying and asking God to lead and teach my husband wherever he sees best. Intentionally lifting every aspect of his life up in prayer. Haven’t seen the change in him but rather the change in myself!

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