For couples in conflict, Mike Berry has identified the critical question.
Marriage is hard. Anyone who has been married for any amount of time will testify to the truth of this. When you mix two individuals, from two different backgrounds, two different households, who have, at times, two very different perspectives, you’ll face conflict to some degree.
It’s to be expected. In fact, it’s normal. Marriage, like any other institution on planet earth, is far from perfect.
In-spite of the imperfections of my marriage, and yours, there’s a big question I’ve been asking myself lately. It’s really a question for any married man (or woman) to ask themselves. Ready? Okay, here goes: Are you a teachable spouse? I know, not your typical marriage question. Those are usually along the lines of “Are you faithful,” “How committed are you,” or “Are you in-tuned to one another’s needs and wants as a couple,” blah blah blah!
Certainly not teachability.
Think about it for a moment. Maybe even ask the question of yourself as a spouse: “How teachable am I as a husband or a wife?”
The question hit me several weeks ago. My wife and I were having it out. I’m talking knock down, drag out having it out! I’m embarrassed to admit it but feel I need to in this context. Yes, after 16 years of marriage we still have these kinds of fights. After all, we’re human beings and we we’re both first children in our families growing up. It’s my way or the highway! We’ve had to really work through this over the years.
Not making excuses, just giving you context.
So, we were having it out, arguing over something that had started as a small misunderstanding, and later turned into World War III. Again, if you’re married, you understand how this goes. Toward the end of our fight, when we were pulling ourselves together and coming to an understanding, my wife said something that resonated deeply with me. She looked at me and said, “I feel like you’re not open to understanding my perspective or feelings toward this.”
And that’s when it hit me. The question. It bounced around in my mind like a pinball zinging through the alleys of a pinball machine. “How teachable am I as a spouse?” I spent the next several hours thinking about this. I did more than that actually. I evaluated my heart, my mind, and my own spirit, asking myself this over and over- “Am I a teachable spouse?” Am I open to really hearing what my wife is saying to me? Can I take on a position of humility in order to understand her perspective or how something makes her feel? How good am I at closing my mouth, opening my mind, shutting down my commentary, and learning how my faults make someone else feel?
What I’m learning is that I have a lot of learning to still do, even after all this time together. To be honest, I will never stop growing or learning. You never do, until the day you breathe your last. It’s the cold hard facts about human life. The moment you believe you’ve arrived, figured it all out, and there’s nothing more to learn, is the moment you stop growing and start failing.
So I’ll ask the question again: “How teachable are you?” Bigger than that, how willing are you to humble yourself and listen, learn, and grow. Doing so will help you succeed as a spouse more than you realize. I’m learning this as well. Personally speaking, when I take on a position of humility and teachability, my wife feels honored and cherished. You may argue that marriage is a two-way street, and that she needs to do this for me as well, and you would be right!
But I’m not talking about her, I’m talking about me. And I’m posing this question for any reader who has logged on and is seeking to better their marriage. Are you a teachable spouse? If not, what’s preventing you from becoming one? Why are you holding back from opening up and learning about yourself from the one human being who knows you best?
You and and I will never find perfection in marriage because we’re imperfect creatures and marriage is an imperfect institution. But we can find peace if we’re willing to stop, listen, and learn. What are you waiting for?