you WHAT?! Arguing In Our Marriage

Marriage is an adventure, like going to WAR 

– Gilbert K. Chesterton

I love to raise my voice. Take things personal. Leave the room. Bring things up two years later. Yell at Dusty in my head all day after he forgets to take out the trash. All the terrible, awful habits of hurtful arguing, I love to do.

There’s a reason there’s good and bad arguing in relationships. The “bad” arguing are the tendencies we have to want to be RIGHT, no matter the cost, to be HEARD without trying to listen and to be LOVED regardless of whether we love in return. I’m guilty of doing all three and more when Dusty and I get into arguments. Some of the mistakes I make include:

  • saying “you ALWAYS…” I’m pretty sure there’s never anything that Dusty ALWAYS does, so it’s not fair for me to accuse him
  • holding grudges “Well, when you did this two years ago…” Holding on to a grudge is toxic to any relationship
  • not speaking up when something bothers me by saying “Fine. Go ahead.” Those three words are Dusty’s signal to run and duck for cover.

Moving to Europe is stressful. Moving and traveling in Europe with a disability as a couple is very stressful. Sure, it’s also incredibly rewarding and once in a life-time experience, blah blah blah. We frequently argue when we travel, because it’s no easy feat to navigate an ancient city with modern medical equipment. We were in Brussels for the first time (our second trip was worlds better) and I was being thrown left and right in my chair from the crazy, bad cobblestones. These walkways shouldn’t even be called cobblestoned, but instead “designated walking areas similar to walking over rubble from a stone quarry”. I had had enough and wanted to stop, Dusty wanted to keep going and was trying to carry a rucksack full of all our things and help push me. Our conversation went a little like this:

“Dusty, can I grab your arm instead of you pushing me? I think that will work better.”
“Sure, but watch out for that grate! Baby, be careful!”
“Stop! I am being careful! What does your phone say our next turn is?”
“Oh shoot, I wasn’t looking…”
“Stop watching me and navigate us! You ALWAYS watch me and it’s not helpful. Please just pay attention to where we’re supposed to go next”
“Alright, alright, I got it. Ok, we missed a turn but now we’ve got 3 blocks until we take a left and then I think there’s a train involved… is that going to be ok?”
“Fine.”

Waterways of Bruges outside of Brussels, Belgium
Waterways of Bruges outside of Brussels, Belgium

Not the best way to communicate but we learned a lot about our own limitations that trip, how much sightseeing I’m comfortable doing in one day and how to walk together in a way that doesn’t make Dusty nervous for me yet I’m still able to be independent. While it’s not the only way to grow, there is tremendous growth that comes from conflict when resolution is found. And we did grow from this conflict, enough so that the second time we went to Brussels we had one of the best trips we’ve had in Europe (click for itinerary). View more pics here!

There’s a bad stigma about arguing and marriage. There’s an idea that a good marriage is one without arguments or conflict and people count the days between arguments to mark progress. I used to buy into this; I wouldn’t admit to anyone that Dusty and I fought. I didn’t want them to think that I had anything less than a wonderful marriage and that meant they couldn’t know we just had a spat over whether to use the self-checkout at Target. I am by no means an expert, but when did knowing that growth comes out of conflict get forgotten? Dusty and I began going to pre-marital counseling when we were engaged, as a requirement to get married in my church. And we loved it. We’re two young kids in love, nothing more. We’re not marriage geniuses full of wisdom or even truly experienced in being in relationships, so how in the world are we supposed to know what to do? There’s plenty of marriage wisdom online, but the truthful answer is that Dusty and I don’t know what we’re doing so we ask for help. We kept going to counseling after we got married and five years later, we haven’t stopped.

The lessons we’ve learned in counseling helped us to navigate some of the awful things that have happened in the five years of our marriage, like my accident. We saw divorce papers flying at the rehab hospital where patients and spouses were learning how to live as paraplegics and many couples justifiably fell apart. And we loved, cried, laughed and argued our way through it.

We argue still today. Because when there’s something wrong, we speak up about it and make time to fix it. But we’re not perfect; I’m better at speaking up, but I’ve got a temper and little tolerance. Dusty’s quieter and works on speaking up, but he’s the insightful and calm one in an argument to keep us rational and on point. We didn’t come into our relationship knowing our strength and weaknesses, we were counseled. And I’d recommend that to anyone in any relationship, but being in a relationship with someone with a disability takes some real relationship tools. We’re a blessed couple in that we’ve learned about these tools and God’s given us the ability to communicate well enough to use the tools. We’re 5 years married now, but I’d gladly go through 100 years of love and arguing to spend 105 years married to him.

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