I've been learning a lot about marriage and parenting lately and just wanted to process some of my thoughts. Jeff & I are very different in a lot of our ideas and the ways we approach things, which can lead to a lot of misunderstanding or frustration. I'm not a big fan of fighting (and Jeff is totally averse to it) however, I've never been one to back down from conflict, particularly conflict that is healthy and has the potential for healing in relationships.
I am learning about having a healthy marriage while being partners in parenting mostly from seeing the same circular arguments and finally choosing to approach things differently. Parenting is the most important and most difficult task that I will ever undertake - I feel fairly confident of that. I think that is why God gave us partners, to strengthen us, balance us out and for goodness sake HELP us! I don't claim to have it all figured out, I'm pretty sure when I think I have arrived at understanding I will find it was just a pit stop and a new unknown phase is right around the corner. Here are some of the things I am learning about myself and some of the things I am trying to employ to make us a happier family:
1) My way is not the only way. It may appear (to me) to be the most effective way, but it is a loosing battle to insist that trivial things be accomplished exactly the way that I would do them. It just makes Jeff feel unappreciated and discourages him from taking initiative when I try to control the way he chooses to do things.
2) Be thankful. See above. My husband is a wonderful father and a caring husband. I have nothing to complain about. If the shoes don't go in the basket I bought for them or if I am constantly picking up socks, those things should not cause me to be snippy or unappreciative of all of the things he does that are a huge help to our family.
3) Communication is hard... but worth it. When there is an argument worth having (which is another point in itself) I need to put away my pride and sense of righteous indignation to LISTEN carefully to the person in front of me instead of holding on to hurt feelings.
4) Guilt is not God honoring. When someone makes a mistake and they acknowledge it and try to move on, doing anything to harbor or illicit guilt in them for their mistake is not from Jesus. Jesus extends forgiveness and grace that covers ALL sins. Being gracious and forgiving is bound to add at least 15 years to your life - I'm sure of it.
5) Modeling support and trust are important for our children's ability to recognize and pursue healthy relationships as they get older. Being supportive and encouraging to your child alone is not enough if they do not see you support and encourage your partner at home. Children are very perceptive and will internalize their parent's relationship characteristics.
6) Share the load. There will be times when each of you has reached the end of your human ability to respond appropriately to each other and to your children. Recognize these signs in your partner and intervene before the rope is gone. Pray for each other, encourage each other and step in to share the load in whatever way your partner needs of you at that time.
Jeff & I celebrated our 4 year anniversary last month and I feel so blessed to have him as my partner in love, in life and in parenting. I am so grateful that we have both learned and grown so much from the ways we used to fight and handle disagreements. It just goes to show that Jesus really does cover over a multitude of sins and will heal us when we ask him. I am sure we both still have a lot to learn, but I'm not afraid to disagree or have conflict anymore - hope you feel the same, dear. =) I love you Jeff and love our life together.