Less than a year ago I wanted out of my marriage. We had been married less than three years and I did not want to be married any longer. I couldn’t imagine being with Clay for 50+ more years, it sounded awful. I was miserable and totally fed up. This is something I will probably talk about in more detail in coming weeks as our third anniversary rolls around (praise God), but today I am going to talk about my marriage and the election.
(For the worriers, a lot has changed and I do not want a divorce at all.)
When I told my sisters that I would be writing this post, they were curious as to how I would draw a parallel between my marriage and the election, because I’m sure they don’t sound like they would go together. But the more I observe what is going on in our society, the more I realized that these two sides are like two people in a broken marriage. They’re both miserable, they’re both fed up, they both feel unheard, and they both want to be right. All the third party voters probably feel like the children stuck in the middle, I know I do.
Here are some wise lessons that have helped to save my marriage. Maybe these will help your marriage, too, or they could also improve the way we interact with those on “the other side,” politically.
1. You are not perfect.
If you’ve ever thrown around insults and accusations about people who voted differently than you, you are part of the problem. If you’ve stayed silent rather than kindly and lovingly addressing issues, you are part of the problem.
“One of the best ways to improve [your marriage] is to draw a circle around yourself and work on changing everyone inside the circle.” – Paul David Tripp
Stop focusing on those you view as enemies of your cause, and start focusing on yourself. Because you are not perfect. We are all broken, and that is why our country (and our social media feeds) is not where we want it to be.
The good news is that if you recognize that you have played a role (any role, even a small role) in the problems that you observe, you can do something about it. You can work on you. You can learn how to love radically, forgive, respond graciously, and act in a servant-hearted way.
Until we each individually acknowledge the brokenness in our own hearts and turn to the One who is ready and willing to help us, we will remain broken.
2. Give grace to others.
Act graciously toward others, even when they hurt you or make you angry. If you are not perfect, than how can you expect others to be?
What does grace in action look like? Stop focusing on others’ faults. Choose to believe the best about their words and actions. Don’t be shocked or angry when others’ actions are not perfect. Respond kindly to harsh words. Be an advocate for others rather than trying to build a case against them.
TRUE LOVE often means loving others not because of their actions, but in spite of their actions. Stop existing in constant competition of one another, in a merit-based system where you’re keeping score. We cannot expect others to show grace to us and refuse to hand it out.
3. Act humbly.
Placing someone as more important than you is the essence of humility. It is a serious and intentional act. As you dig deeper into understanding your own imperfections, you will begin to have a more accurate understanding of who you are, which will lead to treating others better. Get rid of your pride. The pride you have in yourself is false greatness. You’re not as awesome as you think you are (see point 1).
You will realize that you don’t always have to be right. Celebrate the successes of others, even if they have made you angry in the past or done something you disagreed with. Communicate kindly.
Other people will always disappoint, fail, and hurt you. The question to ask yourself constantly is will you forgive? Forgiveness is not forgetting or condoning. It is not reconciling. But it is the decision to pardon an offense and not expect any repayment. It is a choice you make, sometimes in spite of how you feel.
You might have noticed that the more you replay the pain, the worse it feels. Forgive. Forgiveness primarily benefits you, the one who has been hurt.
Each day you stand at a fork in the road. The first option is to hold onto the hurt, disappointment, and frustrations you feel. This will almost always lead to anger and bitterness and will make you miserable. The second option is to forgive and re-engage with others you disagree with.
5. We are a team.
Stop saying you’re going to leave the country if you don’t get your way or if your plans don’t pan out. Mentioning divorce in my marriage was essentially the same thing.
When my husband and I started counseling, the first thing I told our counselor is that I didn’t feel like Clay and I were a team. The counselor told me, simply, that we are on a team whether we like it or not. We win together and we lose together. That’s the essence of a team.
The vast majority of us want the same things. The bulk of your Facebook friends, regardless of who they voted for, are not idiots, or racist bigots, and they don’t want you to die or live a life of suffering. Start making positive plans for the future and continue to remind yourself that as humans in America, we are all on the same team.
6. Pursue truth.
This is One of my biggest gripes about this world fueled by the Internet is the pervasiveness of false information. We must be disciplined to nurture truth. The truth often lies in the middle, so be reasonable. If an article seems to single-mindedly support your way of thinking, purposefully look for the other perspective. If something you read seems a little “off” or extreme, do further research.
(Note: I have altered this point to be about the election specifically. While it is important to pursue truth in our marriage, it obviously looks different than what I’ve mentioned above.)
7. Focus on your communication.
Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. Let the goal of your communication be mutual understanding, rather than voice your negative emotions or be as loud as you can about your anger. The goal of communication is not to win the argument.
Recognize your negative communication patterns:
- Do you withdraw and avoid? Perhaps you need to step into the arena and have loving and heartfelt discussion?
- Do you escalate and notice your conversations becoming increasingly hostile? Do you engage in sarcasm, name calling, or threats? You should take a time out before things get out of hand.
- Do you negatively interpret things that others say? You need to believe the best in others instead of jumping to conclusions that everyone is out to hurt you.
- Do you invalidate–quick to dismiss, minimize, or put down the thoughts, feelings, and character of others? Remember that a goal of communication is to understand rather than express your “rightness.” Be sensitive and empathetic. You will not always agree with others, but you can always be respectful and make sure they feel valued and understood.
8. Get real about conflict.
Admit the part you are playing in our hostile political and societal climate. Don’t make excuses, and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, you will need to overlook minor offenses of others, giving them the benefit of the doubt. The question isn’t IF you are going to have conflict with others, it is HOW you are going to view and handle the conflict you have.
Don’t criticize. Don’t be defensive. Don’t be contemptuous. Don’t stonewall. View conflict as an opportunity to pursue unity.
My mantra over the past few days has been hope and positivity. We are in the very earliest days. Trump isn’t even the president yet, and I have seen so many people sinking down into despair. Yes, Trump has run a heinous campaign. The things that have come out of his mouth, and the things that he has been accused of, are abhorrent and should be deeply concerning to all of us. We all know that not every president can do what they say they’re going to. We know that every president campaigns on the far extreme, and slides closer toward the middle during their presidency. So let’s stand and hope together will be better than we expect.
When my marriage was in trouble, the only thing I had was hope and prayer. Now that I am moving to the brighter side, reigniting my marriage and working on my own heart to improve myself, I am glad that I held on to hope.
If your marriage is a mess and you want to talk to someone, please contact me. I would love to help. These lessons came from the re|engage program that aims to help reconnect, reingage, and ressurect your marriage. Visit the re|engage website at marriagehelp.org.