I think we need counseling.” That was all I could think to say. DJ and I had gone back and forth for almost an hour, arguing about our differences in opinion on the one thing we tend to disagree about most—parenting. Since the birth of our first child, this has been a place that we’ve struggled, and after having our billionth “discussion” about it, we were both exhausted.
And funny enough, our disagreements about the matter at hand weren’t what caused the emotional fatigue, nor were they what triggered my statement. It was the way in which we communicated about it. I felt like I wasn’t being heard and that my thoughts weren’t given merit. As I shared with him, I had felt that way for a long time. From his point of view, he felt like I wasn’t respectful in how I responded to him. And as it turned out, he had felt that way for a while too.
Following my statement, there was a long pause in the once tension-filled room. More silence followed. We were consumed in thought. Up until this point of the conversation, I had been praying silently in my heart, “God, give me the words to say, give me the words to say.” Later, I found out DJ had been doing the same.
Finally, he began, “What can I do to make sure you feel heard?” A glimmer of hope appeared. And yet, part of me still felt I wasn’t being listened to. After all, he didn’t fully address what I had just said. However, I saw his sincerity in the question he asked, and most importantly, I saw his heart. Knowing that in his actions, there existed no malicious intent or ill will toward me, I decided to look past the unintentional hurt he caused and extend grace. Recalling the times he had shown me grace in the past, looking beyond what I had done to hurt him, allowed me to do the same in that moment. I decided to accept the olive branch. DJ first offered some concrete suggestions of things he could try in our future conversations. Once we agreed, I offered some suggestions on things I could do differently moving forward as well. We’ve both come to realize that taking time to plan out “next steps”, and not simply saying “I’ll do better,” tends to yield better results.
So, what happened next? We lived happily ever after of course. Just kidding! That’s not usually how these things go. After our conversation, it did feel like a huge weight was lifted, and life was breathed back into the room. And over the course of the next day or two, although not perfect, things got increasingly better. And now we have tools in hand to use the next time things come up.
Lately, I’ve found myself reflecting on what it really takes to make a relationship work. DJ and I often talk about how blessed we are to truly be in love and find joy in each other daily. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t experience the ups and downs of the roller coaster called “life.” Something I’ve learned is that persistence is essential. The kind of persistence that goes beyond what you thought possible to give.
DJ once told me of what his track and field training was like in high school. He would run sprints to the point of complete and absolute exhaustion. After practice, most days he would just lay on the ground because he had given absolutely all he had. There were even times when he threw up and passed out because he pushed himself so much. That’s the kind of persistence I’m referring to–the kind that hurts.
When you are at the point of giving up on the other person or situation, pray for strength. Then, keep trying. When you have kept trying and changed so much, and the other person still doesn’t reciprocate, keep trying. When you know you did everything “right” and the other person acted selfishly (or so you thought), keep trying. Always extend grace. Always think of the other as better than yourself, and you might just find it to actually be true.
Most importantly, keeping God in the center will allow you to do all that and more!