I Love You's From the Dresser Drawer...
This week our Marriage Champions discussion group focused a very heavy topic, you ready?….duh-duh-dun….household responsibilities. And while at first, it may seem like small potatoes in the land of marriage enrichment (I mean we are discussing difficult topics like communication, conflict management and sexual intimacy here), what we discovered is that “neglect of home and family” is second only to “mental cruelty” as a stated reason for divorce. That’s right, household responsibilities are no small potatoes in marriage.
I don’t think that revelation came as a surprise to most of the women in the room. I pray that it didn’t come as a big surprise to most of the men. Get this: it is estimated that 86% of all marital conflicts are over division of labor in the household. 86%! More than money, or disciplining kids, or sex- more arguments are over who is going to do the dishes tonight. I knew it was a big deal, but I was kind of floored by the numbers.
As we were sharing about the common stumbling blocks that interfere with a healthy relationship, there were several that caught my attention. But I think my own personal revelation as I was telling a story about socks really drove home what this whole Marriage Champions thing is all about in a nutshell. It’s about how we show love. I know, deep epiphany, right? But hang with me here.
Early on in our relationship, Charlie and I had a huge fight about laundry. This one was a yelling, screaming hissy fit (for my part anyway). Over socks. Yep, I almost walked right out the door of the home that God had made for me….over socks.
It shouldn’t have been a big deal. Charlie approached me very gently with a pair of socks in his hand. A pair of socks I had carefully smoothed, rolled and folded together with the happy little smiling face shining out at him. He said calmly and sweetly, “Hey, Sweetie, do you think that you could not fold my socks like this? It stretches the cuff and they don’t stay up as well.” To Charlie, this was a reasonable request. He was even helping me out by lightening my load a bit…he certainly didn’t expect the total meltdown that ensued.
“I guess the way I fold socks is not good enough for you! Do you know how long it took me to do that!?” The conversation just went downhill from there. Then I proceeded to dredge up all the other recent discussions on laundry we had had in the last few months. (He and I do it very differently, to this day.) Charlie, for his part, reeling in the shock of my explosion, disengaged. Ugh! Not a good move. Disengaging only fed my anger and we began a vicious feedback loop which only went away after a four hour cool down period.
My point to my ramblings is this. None of that was about socks. It was about love.
You see, my Daddy was a navy man. From the time I was a little girl, I had learned to fold socks with little smiley faces (it's a military thing, I suppose...helped me a lot in the Army). It was how he taught me, and how he liked (and still likes) his socks folded. I don’t know if my mom likes to fold socks that way, I just know that she does. Because it is not about socks…It is about love.
When Charlie rejected the way that I folded socks, in my mind, he wasn’t rejecting the socks…he was rejecting me. My love. My service. My smiley faces. He had no idea, to him, it was just a sock that wouldn’t stay up because the cuff was stretched out. To me, it was an act of love. You see, it wasn’t the tip of the iceberg (doing laundry) that sank the Titanic, it was the huge hunk of ice beneath the surface of the water (my emotional attachment to that task) that ripped the hull in two.
Of course, at the time, neither of us understood that the laundry wasn’t the issue. It wasn’t until we went through the Marriage Enrichment training with NWA Healthy Marriages (www.nwamarriages.com) that we were given the tools to identify the real issues behind the seemingly little things that can hurt or build a relationship. Some of you have the opportunity to attend that same training this weekend,