When the little things add up

Mark and I start off nearly every morning with prayer. Nothing particularly holy or spiritual, just two people who believe in a loving God giving thanks, asking for wisdom, or praying for our friends and family. Seriously, our prayers last about 45 seconds and are simply a part of our goodbye routine in the mornings. And I would be lying if, most days, I didn’t see our prayer time as just another obstacle between me and getting out of the house on time.

Mark and I also have lots of fights discussions that sound like they’re coming straight out of our favorite book on communication

Mark: Why are you doing the dishes like that?

Me: I would REALLY appreciate if you didn’t criticize the way I did the dishes. Jerk.

Mark: It wasn’t my intention to criticize your dishwashing skills, what did you hear me say?

Me: I heard you say that I’m doing the dishes wrong. It was more in your tone than in your words…

Mark: I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. And my tone was probably because I don’t understand why you’re not using the dishwasher I installed. I put it in because I thought you wanted one, and I was just disappointed you weren’t using it, I guess.

Me: I really appreciate the dishwasher, and at the same time there were only a few dishes so I figured it was easier to just wash them by hand. Sorry about jumping to conclusions… forgive me?

Mark: Of course, Sweetie. (cue the rainbows and butterflies)

Lots of I-statements, lots of clarification, lots of active listening.

And lots of Marie eye-rolling.

I’m all about these skills, obviously. However, sometimes I think the whole process can be time consuming and feel a bit on the scripted side. And there were times, especially during the first few months of marriage, when I was so mad and Mark tried to pull the “what did I do and how did it make you feel” crap and I would yell, “Oh give me a break with your psycho-babble questions. Let’s fight like a REAL COUPLE.”

Yes, the MASTER of marriage and family therapy told her husband to quit the psycho-babble and partake in some good, old-fashioned mud slinging.

Praying nearly every morning and talking through nearly every conflict we encounter has seemed like overkill to me on more than one million occasion.

Then last week happened.

I got home and saw Mark staring worriedly at his computer. I knew something was wrong and my gut said that ‘something’ was finances. And I was right. According to Mint, money was going to be a little tighter this month and I think Mark was on the verge of a panic attack.

As we sat there looking at our accounts I could feel the tension between us. I could feel him wanting to question me about always forgetting to pack a lunch and eating out nearly everyday. I wanted to wonder outloud if this rock climber gig was really worth it and maybe he should just go ahead and do something else. All the ingredients were there for us to have one of those financial fights that destroy marriages.

Except we didn’t have the fight.

Without skipping a beat we had a psycho-babble conversation about what we were afraid of and how we could fix this as a team. And as natural as a goldfish in water we prayed for guidance and expressed gratitude for everything we DID have (each other, great family and friendships, health).

All of a sudden all of our morning prayers and over-analytical conversations made sense. We decided early in our relationship that we valued our spirituality and our communication and we’ve exercised those values on a daily basis. Last week all of that exercise added up to a really great moment for Mark and I.

It’s so easy to look at all the small things we do and wonder “What’s the point?”, especially in our immediate gratification obsessed culture. Maybe your awesomeness at work is still going unnoticed or you’ve been Shredding it for 2 weeks and still can’t get into your skinny jeans. I’d really like to encourage you to keep going and all your hard work will pay off soon enough.

Because I’m sure I’ve bored some of you to tears, here’s a treat for everyone who made it this far. A FB status that I wanted to write but knew wouldn’t be a good idea so I hid it here, at the end of a “serious” post:

Marie McKinney-Oates pooted something ferocious and would love to blame it on Nala but is pretty sure Mark would take the little guy to the vet…

5 thoughts on “When the little things add up

  1. Angelia says:

    I think many couples/people (including myself) would LOVE to be able to communicate that effectively with our partners. I’ll admit that mud slinging goes on in our home and it doesn’t work out. We generally start out that way and at some point realize that nothing is being accomplished, take a moment to gather ourselves and start again a little more composed.

    That is the single most fantastic FB status message I’ve seen! I do have to agree with the not such a good idea though. 🙂

    Oh, I can be a great mud slinger but Mark won’t do it at all and (sometimes) it bites because sometimes you just want to get mad and then try again composed (like you guys!). However, I really appreciated not having to go through a long drawn out fight over finances. And I’m glad that you got a kick out of the FB status! I wanted so bad to post it even though I knew it was a bad idea.

  2. Master Rebekah says:

    Oh my goodness! Finances are some of our worst fights, but you know how we were laughing at Kingston’s pants being backwards and I said, “Its not a battle worth fighting”? I’ve been thinking about that statement and wondering how different marriages would be if we took that stance there too. I think I’m gonna start! I love that you guys pray together every morning. What a great way to begin the day!

    Oh my goodness, you are so right that that would be a great motto in marriage! And to just shake our heads and laugh when they aren’t doing what we want? That’s seriously a great idea! Praying together is a great way to start the day, and the way we pray it takes hardly any time at all.

  3. Monica Evans says:

    Oh, I’ve missed you! I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t read your blog all month. I love this post. Psycho babble arguments seem crazy at the time but they help keep the argument pure and clear of all the stuff that makes people say things they don’t really mean-and it keeps the discussion solution oriented, which rocks (I really need a solution at the end of a “discussion”)

    I’m glad you saved that FB status just for us. I probably would have missed it if you put it there 🙂

    Aw, I’m glad you enjoyed the FB status :p Yeah, my mom would have had a heart attack if I had put that on FB. Heh.

    And I’m so with you on needing a solution (we’re such brain twins, I swear), I get tired of the constant clearing things up but at the end I better know what we both got out of the argument and what we’re both going to do to keep it from happening again.

  4. Connie says:

    Yuck ! I so dislike money talk and tax time drives me nuts, I am no bookkeeper numbers are not my thing. Oh and to live on a budget is not my idea of fun. This is something I get to look forward to when we live stateside again, now there is a BIG Yuck…. Girl some things need to be hidden at the end, poor Nala.

    I like numbers and don’t mind money talk, as long as there is money to talk about 😀 Ha, and I felt sorry for the little guy, too!

  5. Paul says:

    I started off our marriage unemployed for the first 3 months…I mean 6…I mean 9…OK I lost count. As a guy who dreamed of slaying the dragon while making a million on the stock market at the same time, my lack of financial production was quite a blow to the old male ego.

    But it’s in those incredibly humbling, difficult times, you get to learn what your marriage is really made of, and I’m so thankful it’s made up of my wife. Supporting each other in THOSE times, propels marriages.

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