If you have siblings, think back to a time when you were young and riding in the backseat of the car together. Your brother or sister was bothering you by jabbing their finger into your side or flicking their fingers against your head. The area of the backseat was too small to get away, so instead you drew an imaginary line and told your sibling they were not allowed to cross it. Amazingly, that tactic generally worked in keeping your sibling from bothering you, if only for a minute.
Take that same concept and apply it to your marriage. Every now and then, you and your spouse bother each other and end up turning molehills into mountains. That’s what recently happened to my wife and I when we had another trivial disagreement over something absolutely silly that escalated to the point where we kept our distance from one another. It wasn’t really a yelling match or shouting episode, but we ended up staying on our own side of the line. It went on that way for a few days. Eventually we worked through it and were able to occupy the same space again, but I want to share how we broke down the barriers and overcame our mountain.
First, we agreed to move forward. We agreed to disagree and to not continue to talk about what had happened. That was difficult. One time, I even slipped and brought the issue up and there we were again—drawing an imaginary line. I discovered it was more important to leave it alone for good. I only advise this when the matter is trivial. If there are significant problems, then you need to seek counsel.
Secondly, I looked for ways to encourage her and I know she did the same for me. We both searched for positives in the midst of negativity. This helps in getting the momentum shifting in the right direction.
Third, and probably most critical to the marriage equation in general, is to practice forgiveness. It is important that you let your spouse make mistakes and then forgive them. It is the key to getting to the next level and overcoming conflict.
In pondering that last step, I thought about what it would be like to live in a home where you are never forgiven. Think about it for a moment. What if all the mistakes you have ever made were never forgiven and were held against you? How horrible and torturous would that be? When I don’t forgive someone in my heart, they are experiencing those feelings. In order to appreciate the times I’ve been forgiven, I need to forgive others, especially my spouse.
Lastly, we did something fun together that we both enjoy. We took a walk. We laughed. We cut up. I was playful on the walk and we ended up straightening out our relationship. The line that was drawn began to slowly disappear with every step we took and with every smile we gave and received.
As I wrap up these thoughts with a happy heart, I hope you recognize that everyone deals with issues in their marriage, even those of us who spend most of our lives trying to help people in this area. Hopefully the difference is in how we handle our challenges. I hope these words help you work to eliminate your imaginary lines and continue to win at home.