Last fall a minor war broke out between my in-laws and me. For months I contemplated the situation. I stood in the shower each morning replaying moment after moment of my encounters with them. Every evening before I fell asleep I replayed even more. At first I felt angry, then guilty, then the anger raged again. My husband and I discussed the problems, issues and events at length. We spent many late nights talking through the details and coming to terms with both the past and the reality of our present day relationships.
In my mind only bad things could come of this battle. I believed my husband, (who has been stuck in the middle for two decades), would finally tire of it. For years he has been bombarded with negative comments about me and my family. One evening he spent three hours listening to his parents complain about me and the complaints were sharp and jarring.
For years I defended myself against these accusations. Yet his bond was so strong that I believed he would ultimately side with them. How can you listen to such awful words about your spouse and then go home and smile at them?
Strangely enough my fears have been unwarranted. It some strange twist in this roller coaster of life my husband and I have landed on level ground together. My in-laws still don’t like me. In fact, one of them all but refuses to look or speak to me, yet my relationship with my husband is stronger than ever.
How could any good have come from this conflict? What have I learned from the mistakes that led us here?
- I am too passive in my relationships. I am not good at showing my vulnerabilities. I mask my true feelings particularly when I am hurt.
- The truth hurts. In order to truly understand where your spouse is coming from, they will say things that hurt you. While I would rather not feel the sting, I cannot correct or speak up when I do not have all the facts presented before me.
- I can put up with a whole lot of sh*t. When I tell people any portion of the story about my extended family they inevitably ask “how did you put up with this for so long?” This quality can be both a hindrance and a blessing.
- I do not like conflict in my personal relationships. While you might say “who does?” I can tell you from experience that some people thrive on it. I am most definitely not one of them.
- Even when angry I must attempt to view situations from the other person’s perspective. Even when I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right in my assertions, I must try to step back and see what the other person may have felt or believed occurred.
- It is very important to understand the motivations that drive other people. I began asking myself “why are we in this situation,” “what is [that person] feeling,” “what would drive them to act like that?” While I cannot change their behavior it does help to understand it.
- I took a back seat to my husband’s wishes and desires. In order to ‘stay married’ I thought I had to ‘stay miserable.’ I realize now this is not the case.
- Lastly, I am strong. Many women have told me that they could not have lived through the same situation that I lived through. Many tell me they would have divorced their husbands and screamed at their extended family long ago. To that I say my husband is a great person with a few flaws. Since I am not without my own flaws I cannot seek perfection in my spouse.
I cannot be certain what the future holds for my relationship with my husband, but I believe this conflict has allowed us to be more open and honest than ever before. While I cannot provide the keys to a healthy marriage it seems strong communication is at the forefront. As long as we continue to try to understand one another and the motivations that cause us to act I believe we will remain on the right track.
At least I hope so.