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Category Archives: marriage conflict

Handling those unavoidable, very normal conflicts

“Mary, Mary so contrary…” – Learning to not be negative

I’m working on not correcting everything Rob says.

Last month we were in Seward, Alaska, for a sightseeing tour on a catamaran. Stormy weather shortened our Resurrection Bay tour from six to three hours, giving us extra time to see the town.

We walked the length of Seward four times. In the rain. We saw wildlife in the Alaska SeaLife Center that we didn’t have the luck to see in the bay, popped in and out of touristy gift shops searching for stocking stuffers, shared a mocha, and admired the salmon fighting their way up the river running through town.

Fifteen minutes before boarding the train back to Anchorage, we sat in Terry’s Fish & Chips, ordering our dinner to go.

“I think we saw what there is to see in Seward,” Rob said.

“Well, we didn’t get out to that waterfall, or take the hike the ranger mentioned,” I said. “So there is more. But I’m content.”

With an inward sigh, I amended, “Sorry. I could have simply said, ‘I’m content.'”

Rob smiled and said nothing.

It’s healthy to feel free to voice my disagreement. But here’s my current hypothesis:

  • Rob spoke in a generality.
  • I spoke in specifics.
  • Both can be right.
  • And it may get just a little tiresome for Rob when I, by default, correct his generalizations.

Ten minutes later, we walked to the train. Wood-slat planters filled with flowers marked the entrance to the depot.

“They color-coordinated,” Rob said, motioning from the flowers to the train.

The train was blue and yellow (generally speaking). The flowers were a cheery yellow—and decidedly purple. Purple lupin lobelia. The kind that is nearly iridescent purple in its glowing intensity.

“Oh, um-hm,” I said.

Because generally-speaking, Rob was right. Purple and blue are side-by-side in the color spectrum. Specifically, the colors did not match the train, and I would not have said it was color-coordinated. But did that matter enough for me to “correct” him? I held my tongue and eased my toes into the pool of generalities.

Note: When I ran this hypothesis by Rob, he gave a “hmpf”…disagreeing with my rather sweeping generality of our communication styles (he is specific sometimes, after all…) and proceeded to correct me on the specific flower type…which is noted in the text above.

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My husband wants mulligans from me

“You want what?” I asked.

We were sitting on our living room couch. It was the end of a long day, at the end of a long week, at the end of two long months, contemplating another difficult month ahead.

I’d just told Rob how he could make my life easier. Now, being the supportive wife sort, I’d asked how I could do the same.

“I’d like you to give me mulligans,” Rob said.

Was a mulligan related to a hobbit?

“A mulligan is a retake.” 

We’d watched The Legend of Baggar Vance a few nights earlier. The golfer “took a mulligan” when he knocked the ball so far off the course that there was no way to redeem it.

Rob wanted grace when he completely missed the mark with me.

Being the supportive wife sort, I told Rob he didn’t even know how often I gave him mulligans, but I’d be happy to let him know each time from now on.

***

We were just finishing a difficult two months of infertility intervention. I’d been on a low level of fertility drug both months. The drug is essentially more hormones, to convince my body to work a bit harder. Month two, the doctor also prescribed progesterone to help keep the baby, should I get pregnant. 

Two months with a great many more hormones than normal in my body, in addition to the tension of raised hopes and expectations. Oh, and let’s throw in a stressful fulltime job.

We did not get pregnant.

I was worn down by my internal battles, tired of the external battles. I’d done my best to contain emotions; Rob had done his best on mop-up duty for those that spilled over, or bracing himself for those aimed right at him.

And so here we sat, looking at month three. Should we move forward in pursuit of a baby, or take a break?

What was best for our marriage?

We decided to create ground rules for infertility engagement. That’s where the mulligan came in.

***

I can’t say I appreciated Rob’s request, nor saw (much) need for it.

Did he realize how often I gave him grace? Did he know how many times I bit back my words and gave him another chance? I wish I could say I solemnly nodded and said, “I can see your point.” But I believe the best I did that evening, after expressing my ire about my unseen and unappreciated grace-giving, was to mutter “OK.”

I was not graceful in learning to give mulligans over the next several weeks.

Take 1:  I have a vague memory of bracing myself against the kitchen counter in the midst of an offense and saying through gritted teeth, “Mulligan. Mulligan. I’m giving you a mulligan right now.” I’m not sure that qualified.

Take 4:  With friends in our backseat, we drove through the countryside to an antique store destination. I suggested it was in one town; Rob headed toward another town. After discovering his error and following a circuitous route, we ended up at the town I had suggested. I didn’t mention the detour until we were driving home.

“Did you notice?” I asked.

“What?”

“I gave you a mulligan,” I said, rather pleased with myself.

“Yes, you did. Good job.” And he patted my knee.

Take <?>:  One day I knew I had arrived at that place that allows both for true grace (not rubbing Rob’s face in his mistakes as I point out that I am overlooking them) and acknowledgement of that grace (which encourages me in my pursuit of liberal mulliganism). Not that I stay in that place, mind you—but all triumphs must be celebrated.

I no longer remember the offense, nor do I remember my exact response. All I recall is Rob assuming the golfer’s stance with his invisible putter, and gently knocking the non-existent ball into an imaginary hole. I’d given him a mulligan, and his salute of appreciation was my reward.

Way to go, I thought. Way to go.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2008 in grace, infertility, marriage conflict

 

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