I Spy


Have you played the game “I Spy?” The great thing about this game is that you can play it anywhere and it can quickly entertain a restless toddler. The gist of the game is that somebody (the spy), spots something with a certain color in the immediate area. Then they announce, “I spy something…” and then name the color of the item they’ve identified. The players then start trying to guess the item until they get it right.

I was at a gathering recently, and as I looked across the room, I spied a couple who I would say were red as they were obviously struggling. Their faces exhibited wide eyes, sorrowful frowns, and raised eyebrows. Their arms were moving rapidly and it was evident from their body language that they were speaking harshly to each other. The conversation appeared to be abrupt as their mouths opened for brief seconds at a time as though they were talking in one- or two-word sentences. They were probably expressing themselves in short bursts of negativity.

As I stood there watching, I thought that they probably didn’t even realize what they were doing. Nor did they realize how they looked to other people. Sometimes when couples have been together for a long time, they don’t even recognize when they are arguing because it’s either so commonplace that it doesn’t appear out of the ordinary to them or they believe they are doing a good job hiding it. I was almost looking at them piously, as though my wife and I never have these kinds of moments. Later that same week, I was reminded that we do as I watched my wife walk out of the room we were in, flailing her arms and crying out, “We just can’t talk about this!”

I was laughing on the inside thinking about how we were just like that other couple and many others who struggle with issues that other people can spy immediately, but they don’t easily see themselves. Just ask any armchair quarterback or coach. It’s easier to see where corrections need to be made when you have the luxury of watching a sporting event in your living room instead of actually being in the game. The same is true in marriage. I can more easily fix someone else’s relationship struggles because I can see them more clearly. I don’t have the same vested interest as the participants. But my circumstances are a whole different gig! That’s how we all think.

However, I don’t think we should. We all need to be able to spy our own problem areas to see how we can improve in our marriage and family relationships. In my house, we refer to it as “owning it.” It takes humility on the part of the person causing the problem and it takes grace for the ones feeling the effect of it to accept their apology. Many times, the problem is caused by both husband and wife. In that scenario, they need to each be humble and forgiving if they want their marriage to grow.

If your arms are flailing, figure out how to calm them down. If your voice is getting louder, figure out how to soften it a little bit. Do what you need to do to spy your own issues and learn to reverse those unhealthy trends in your relationships. That will help you to win at home.