A couple years after we were married my husband (finally!) agreed to getting a dog. (It was good timing actually because a stray had just had 11 puppies in our back yard, so we decided to keep two).
Life with puppies was everything I had ever dreamed of until 24 hours into it when my husband pointed out that he was only okay with dogs if they were exclusively outside pets (maybe it had come up before, who knows, but it felt like a surprise to me. Besides who has a dog and doesn’t let them cuddle up on the couch and feed them scraps at the dinner table? Isn’t that the whole point?) There was no convincing him, my little snuggle babies quickly moved outdoors.
Honestly being outside didn’t seem to bother them, at least not near as much as it bothered me or the neighbors who put up with their barking. Still the dogs became a point of tension in our house. He was adamant and I conceded but neither of us ever really saw eye to eye on the issue.
. . .
But with time things change, and with our most recent move (6 years later and now down to one dog) our dog began sleeping in the house. This past week I finished making her a little bed and she now has the privilege of eating our dinner scraps and sleeps cozy, inside every night.
I don’t tell this story to illustrate me getting my way. In fact it was almost the opposite, at this point my husband was more eager to have the dog in the house and give her a soft bed than I was. I had grown content with visiting her when we went outside and not having to clean dog hair off the furniture. But in six years our whole life has changed, we now have a daughter, I’m a stay at home mom rather than working 80 hours per week, we are in a new house and a new town.
The point I’m making is this, when you are married you are in it for the long haul. While I’m all for settling arguments as much as you can as they arise (not going to bed angry, yahada yadha yadha), there are places where a husband and wife will disagree. Some of them are major, issues of spirituality and family. Others, like where the dog should sleep, aren’t as significant but still feel intense when you are butting heads over them. There are some differences that you can talk about until you are blue in the face, you can learn to see them from the others’ point of view but you still won’t agree because you are two different people. It is a common and painful reality of married life.*
But I have seen, many times, in our relatively short (8 years) of marriage, that as long as we continue to prioritize our relationship (spending time together, being truthful, patient, and kind) and as we grow as people (mainly spiritually, putting prayer and our relationship with God above all else) many of these differences eventually work themselves out without even trying. Over and over issues that felt huge when they arose began to dissolve. Seeing this pattern has helped me to relax when we disagree.
The key sometimes is giving it time. . . lots of time.
I’ve learned that time isn’t just waiting around, hoping things will just blow over. The passing of time means sharing a common life, forgiving, healing and changing together. While God works through miracles and crisis, more often we encounter Him in the real things of every day. We see Him in our spouse, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same bed, arguing, apologizing, going to baseball games and mowing the lawn. Through these little things we grow, and in married life we become unified with each other and with God Himself.
Being married is one of the hardest thing we can ever do. At least, being married and truly pursuing intimacy with our spouse. It requires a vulnerability which we don’t experience in any other relationship.
There is a misconception that if you are disagreeing or arguing you are doing something wrong or your marriage is failing (now don’t get me wrong, there is a right and wrong way to argue, it isn’t okay to be unkind or manipulative, and our dysfunctional ways of relating to each other need to be addressed, often with the counsel of professionals. But still being forced to deal with our own dysfunction is one of the benefits of marriage). But struggling is exactly what we should expect from two people learning to live together in such an intimate way. You must disagree. It is the disagreeing and the figuring it out that binds you together (Luckily it isn’t only disagreeing, there are lot’s of fun times in marriage too, no doubt. But disagreeing is part of it, and for the handful of you that almost always get along with your spouse, I’m happy for you, don’t take this to mean that I think you are doing anything wrong).
So it may take 6 years or 15 years or whatever. It is a long time to wait to reach a consensus. But what a sweet consensus it is. And what a cuddly pup that is snuggled up her little doggie bed.
*Of course there are some issues that are much more serious than dog beds, this isn’t meant to down play some of the real dangers and tragedies in marriage, please seek out help if you need it.
Thanks for Reading,