It had been a long week and I was tired from all the work involved with holiday preparations. In my youthful naivete I used to think Christmas was a magical time filled with warm wishes and wonder, but as I’ve become an adult, I now associate the holiday more with work and worry. The stockings hung by the chimney don’t just appear. Cookies don’t magically bake themselves. The Christmas tree doesn’t grow money and presents don’t just show up at your door wrapped beautifully and tied with a red bow (although, thanks to Amazon some do!) but before I go too far and sound like I’m complaining, I promise, I’m not. I’m just saying that there is a lot of extra work to be done to prepare for the holidays that is outside of our normal routine.
One evening shortly before Christmas I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to climb into bed, but I had one thing left to do, which was grab clean sheets out of the dryer and make the bed. It’s a cumbersome task that is so much easier with two people and my husband usually helps me but this evening he was dozing on the couch as the football game on TV was lulling him to sleep. I thought the slam of the dryer door would awaken him to my need but he didn’t even move. So, as I began waving the sheets in the air and spreading them across the bed by myself, my thoughts grew as weary as my body. “Why do I have to do this by myself? Why is he not in here helping me? Why does he get to lay on the couch and I have to do all the work? It’s not fair. Look at me…trying to get everything around to make this house nice and all he is doing is laying there without a care in the world.” And then the little voice in my head that sometimes sounds like my mother stopped me. “And who’s fault is that?”
Good question. Was there any fault? Why was I so irritated and frustrated and suddenly resentful? In reality, my husband had done absolutely nothing wrong so why was I instantly offended? How had this become a problem in a matter of minutes? I asked myself these questions and concluded the problem that I had just created in my head grew out of my own preconceived, subconscious, unmet, but not clearly communicated, expectations. Because he had helped me with this chore before, I expected him to jump up and help me again, but I had never once mentioned it throughout the evening. We never had a conversation about it. I never expressed how tired I was or explained the extra work I had to do. In all honesty, it boiled down to one thing. I expected him to do the one thing he – and every other spouse on this planet – simply cannot do…read my mind.
Good communication is the lifeblood of healthy marriages, but it can only exist between two individuals who are willing to admit when they don’t get it right. Taking ownership of a communication breakdown can stop the negative flow and bring about a positive outcome. Admitting that what you said or didn’t say was a factor in the problem is key to diffusing conflict. Trust me when I say I don’t always get it right but, in this situation, I am so glad that I stopped myself before things spiraled out of control and one of us ended up sleeping on the couch instead of in the clean sheets.
“The godly think before speaking; the wicked spout evil words.” Proverbs 15:28