There are times in our marriages when we are guilty of dumping emotional garbage on one another. I’ve done it, my husband has done it, and you and your spouse probably have done it. This is where something is bothering you and instead of disposing of it properly, you let your “partner” have it.
In these kinds of times, it’s usually easier to be the one who gives than receives. After all, who wants to be the receiver of that, which stinks? But unfortunately, when we live with another human being —with intimacy as a goal, irritations get tossed around, and we will be the receiver at times.
When it DOES happen, however, that’s when you (the one who is on the receiving end) need to decide what to do in these times of conflict. Do you find a meek way to confront it, because you feel because it gets in the way of your intimacy? Or do you let it go?
Now, let me be clear on the issue of confronting. I said, “meek” not “weak.” Meekness is defined as “strength under control.” It is not about being a wimp or throwing around strength out of control. It’s not a weak confrontation, but one that is done in the best way possible, for the situation at hand.
That definition has helped me in many ways, when faced an emotional “dumping” situation.
I remember years ago a specific situation when my husband “dumped” some emotions on me. It was a time when I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. I actually thought of that definition and stood up a bit taller and said gently but firmly, “This is obviously not about me. I didn’t do anything to deserve your anger. Do you want to talk about what is making you angry, or do you just need some space?” Steve immediately backed off, and confessed what was going on. At that point we talked about the whole matter in a very uniting manner.
Now let me tell you first, that Steve doesn’t usually act like that with me. As a matter of fact, I am more often the one who tends to “dump” more than he does. But that specific situation was actually a turning point for both of us. It turned things around in such a positive way that we talked about it. And both of us have since been much more “meek” in how we react. We’re not as quick to snarl back and instead give more grace and space to each other when one or both of us need it.
Sometimes it’s best to confront, sometimes it’s best to wait to confront, and other times it’s best to let it go.
But when you DO confront, make sure your purpose is to “speak the truth in love” (in other words, motivated because of love) as the Bible talks about. You can’t always avoid conflict in your marriage, nor should you. As author Paul Coughlin explains:
“Conflict is the price you pay for intimacy. Read that sentence again, and let it sink in. If you want to connect genuinely with other people, you have to risk conflict by being frank and firm in addition to gracious and loving. It’s that ‘salty and sweet’ combination. And though not a popular message, risking conflict by speaking the truth in love is part of following Christ. This is what the real Jesus modeled for us. He didn’t avoid necessary conflicts if those interactions could possibly lead to a more authentic, intimate relationship. And he always spoke the truth in love.” (From the Crosswalk.com article, Friendships and Family: How Nice Wrecks Your Relationships)
Unfortunately, sometimes there are spouses who are abusive when they confront or are confronted. (We have an Abuse in Marriage topic that could help you to better help you in that type of situation.) But for those of you, who aren’t dealing with abusive situations, make it your goal to confront in love, or give some grace and space, when it’s appropriate. (This is difficult to remember to do when we should, but it sure can be beneficial, when we do it.)
We’re told in Isaiah 35:3 to “encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.” In applying this verse to your marriage, April Motl (from the Crosswalk.com article, “Making Your Marriage a Safe Place”) gives the following challenge to consider.
“Is your honey worn out? Find a way to tangibly come along side him or her to give encouragement and strength to them. Maybe it is some time away from the responsibilities of life, a shoulder rub, making and cleaning up dinner or just listening to them process life.”
There’s no doubt that it isn’t always possible to do this, but when it’s appropriate, give the type of love and grace that you would want to receive from your spouse. Give that, which you’ve received from Christ.
And even though the following statement is referring to “secrets” rather than emotional garbage, it still applies. I SO agree with what Alecia wrote in a Mystery32.com article titled, “What’s Your Secret?”
What makes our marriage work? In a word… grace.
My husband certainly needed it when he chose to confess his dark secrets to me. And I knew in my heart that I wanted to extend it. For one reason —I knew how in need of it that I was.
And so the journey began. It was a journey to healing and restoration. It was also a journey to learning to walk this thing called marriage out with another human being and do it well. You can’t do it well without grace.
Grace allows you to drop your preconceived ideas about what marriage should look like.
Grace gives you the ability to relax your expectations and give your spouse room to be who they are.
Plus, grace allows you to forgive your spouse for their imperfections.
Grace allows you to see your differences as a good thing.
Grace makes you aware that your spouse is just as human as you are. They will fail you.
And grace gives you the ability and desire to handle those failures with, well… grace.
In the way that you react to emotional dumping:
“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
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Filed under: Communication and Conflict