Recently, my husband and I have begun some remodeling projects on our house. As the remodeling in one area was completed, all three of our children began to relocate into another bedroom. Before they could be moved, each bedroom needed to be painted. While I was fine with doing most of the painting, some physical issues rendered me in need of help on the final bedroom. I worked on the edging while my husband did the second coat of paint on the ceiling. I had asked him to work on the opposite side of the room that I was painting on so that we wouldn't get in one another's way, but alas, he didn't listen. To his detriment, he relocated the foot of his ladder right in my tray of red paint. And it suddenly occurred to me that we were working against each other rather than being a competent team.
I'm sure you can identify with this story I share. No marriage is exempt from these sorts of conflicts. And how many times do we work against each other as parents? Dad says "yes". Mom says "no". Mom questions the doctors. Dad prefers not to make waves. Dad wants the kids to gain skills for independent living. Mom overprotects.
What do we accomplish when we work in this fashion? Our results are probably not unlike the ones I describe with the painting experience! We become tied in knots over how to proceed with raising the children, educating them, getting medical care and preparing them for adult life. Not only that, when our children see us working against one another as parents, it ruins our credibility with them. We fail to provide stability. We no longer make sense. We certainly don't look like we know what we're doing.
So how do we overcome this obstacle that every marriage faces? Here are a few ideas:
- Make God the "third" in your marriage! -- Praying together softens your spirits so that you more readily listen to one another and work together. The Lord also imparts wisdom to couples who lift everything up to Him in prayer. And, as the above passage states, that three-stranded cord is not easily broken!
- Decide, what are your "hills to die on". -- As a twosome, you must realize that you can't always have your own way 100% of the time. Pick the issues that you absolutely cannot compromise on, and honor those issues your partner shares as well.
- If you come to an impasse, meet with an outside party. -- A marriage counselor, educator or even physician can help you and your spouse reason to a point where one of you compromises. Facts presented by an outside third party can make for much better decision-making.
- Define your position away from the children. -- When an issue presents itself, commit to discussing it when the children are not within earshot. Coming to a unified decision and presenting a united front to the children will only help strengthen your family.
- Support one another when the kids try to divide you. -- It's the oldest play in the book. Your child gets one answer he doesn't like from you and attempts to get a different answer from your spouse. When in doubt, speak with your spouse, and make certain that your children know that whatever your partner says, stands.
- Be flexible. -- Parenting and family life are not a static, even experience. Adapting to changing times and circumstances are essential to overall happiness. When new information becomes available, it may bear making some adjustments. Do so willingly, without having to be dragged into changes.
- Be willing to humble yourself and apologize. -- Try as we might to get all of this right, in our humanity, we fail. I would say that I fail daily! Humility accompanied by an apology goes a long way towards healing a marriage and strengthening a family. Holding grudges only turns things toxic in short order.