When we fight with our spouse or significant other, we want to vent about the problem to someone. We want to get our feelings off our chest, and if we’re mad at the one person we usually turn to, where do we go? Our parents? Siblings? Friends?
Here is one simple, but extremely important, rule for seeking relationship advice: talk to someone who is in the kind of relationship you want. It’s like that saying, you dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you are wanting to get a promotion in your career, you wouldn’t seek advice from someone who is working at the level you’re at or someone who is working under you. Likely, they don’t have the experience or best knowledge that you need to move up in your career path. That knowledge and experience comes from seeking advice from those who have already been promoted.
That doesn’t mean that just because you’re married that you can’t have single friends anymore. But when we’re in a fight, my husband isn’t going to take advice from his bachelor friends who have never been married and don’t have children, and I’m not going to ask my girlfriends who are divorced what they think I should do. We still respect all of our friends and their relationship decisions and statuses. But if they aren’t on the same relationship path, they aren’t going to have the best knowledge and experience for us. Instead, we look to our parents who have been married for decades or other friends who are married with young children. Those are the ones who understand where we are at and how to overcome whatever our disagreement may be.
What I’ve also noticed throughout the years is this: when I seek relationship advice from my single friends, I’m more likely to get sympathy and comments like, “I can’t believe he would do that! He shouldn’t say things like that! You’re so right to be angry about that!” But when I explain the situation to my married friends, I’m more like to get empathy and comments like, “Yes, I can understand how that might have made you feel. What if you tried approaching the situation like this? What can you do that might make the situation better?” When we are angry and emotional, we want justification. We want someone like our single friends to say, “Yes, you are right to be mad.” But that’s not always what our relationship needs, and it’s usually my friends who are in a generally happy and caring relationship that can give me the constructive advice that I need, rather than the emotional acceptance that I want.
My husband and I do not have a perfect relationship, but I know that by continually striving to understand each other, learn what we can do to defuse a situation rather than set it on fire, and seeking advice from others who have endured the same types of disagreements, we are growing a healthy and lasting marriage.
Whether it’s your relationship, your career, or just life in general, don’t seek advice from where you’ve been or where you are, but where you want to be.
Thanks for reading today!
I walked through the cold rain, clicking my heels a little faster and harder than necessary as we walked across the parking lot towards the movie theater.
“What, are you trying to run away from me?” my husband asked with anger still in his voice.
“I’m just trying to get out of the rain.” True. But also, I was trying to run away from him.
We paid for two tickets to see Reacher and headed toward the snack bar.
“Do you want anything?” I asked.
“Whatever you want.”
We waited in line in silence. As I combed the knots from my long, wet hair with my fingers, my eyes caught a young couple standing in the line next to ours. They were holding hands. They were smiling at each other in a way only new lovers do. I took in a long breath, and as I exhaled, I let my shoulders relax, releasing them from the tension I hadn’t realized they carried. I grabbed my husband’s hand and smiled at him.
“Can we please just enjoy the rest of the night?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He squeezed my hand. Maybe a little harder than required. Sure, we were late for the movie to start, but his sister-in-law needed my blogging advice. I just had to help her right then. But he was definitely wrong that I do that kind of thing all the time. Or at least I was pretty sure.
We watched the movie, holding hands and cuddling in the seats. I clenched his thigh during the suspenseful parts. He tried to pull my hands away from my face when someone was about to get shot.
After the movie, we drove to the restaurant that he had suggested. It was a small, Italian spot in the basement floor of a shopping center. Nothing I would have chosen on my own, but I liked the atmosphere. Behind my husband was a large poster featuring Michelangelo’s David (from the waist up) in an ad for Italian imported wines. I wanted a picture for my Instagram account. I could picture the caption now: “My anniversary #date… No, the guy with the #beard, not the one that’s #chiseled.” I thought it was clever. My husband had other thoughts.
“Why do you always have to share every single moment with the world? Can’t some things be just between us?”
“I do keep a lot of things just between us. I like to write and share things with people. I sit at home with our baby all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it’s nice to have adult interaction too.”
“Maybe if you weren’t always checking your Facebook or Instagram, you and I could have a lot more interactions.”
A valid point.
“It’s our anniversary, and we can’t even go on one date without arguing!” he said.
I felt a little hurt. And a lot to blame. But I couldn’t let it go yet.
“Well, maybe we could if you were willing to do something together other than watching sports or the history channel. I can only stay interested in that for so long, and then I get bored. Your idea of spending time together is watching TV. What’s the difference between you being glued to the TV and me being glued to the Internet?”
“There’s a difference. Watching TV together, at least we are involved in the same activity, and we can laugh and talk about it.”
Another decent point.
“I’m just trying to enjoy our night together. Rarely can we afford the time or money to go out, and we can’t even enjoy it, because we’ve been arguing all night!” he said.
“You’re not enjoying it? What about the movie?” I asked. He read the disappointment on my face.
“It’s not that I’m not enjoying it. The movie was fine.”
“When we weren’t talking,” I noted.
“Well, yeah. At least we weren’t arguing.”
“Babe, I’ve got news for you,” I said, “We argue all the time.”
“Not ALL the time,” he said.
“Yes, we do. Name a time when we’re not arguing about something.”
He thought for a minute. “When we’re driving home after visiting our parents, and the kids are asleep.”
“Okay, yes, that’s one. When you’re trying to make me laugh or keep me awake,” I said.
“Right. And then there’s…” Silence.
“My point is, we argue all the time. Why should our anniversary be any different? Most of the time, it’s not even a big deal and we end up laughing it off as soon as it starts. Just because we argue doesn’t mean we can’t have fun doing it.” I smiled at him. Winked.
As he thought, I reached across the table and held his hand. We argued about whether or not we were going to order an appetizer, and if we did, which one, and then we ate and talked and laughed and discovered about a dozen other little arguments between then and picking up our boys.
We drove home in the rain, with the boys asleep in the backseat, listening to the radio.
“I had a great time with you tonight,” I said.
“I had a good time with you too.”
I reached for his hand, and squeezed it tight, happy that we agreed.
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