My husband and I were having a discussion. A very lively one. OK, we were yelling at each other. Loudly. With gusto. With our neck veins bulging out, in fact. It was a loud argument.
It was late at night, the kids were in bed, we were very tired, and we were in those maximum-stress years of parenthood. We were juggling jobs and sitters and bills and chores and children ages 4 and 2, with a third on the way.
Now, marriage is like music: you’ve got your melody, you’ve got your harmony, and by golly, you’ve got your percussion. Big-time.
That night, instead of making beautiful music together, we were making “The 1812 Overture.” It was pretty out of character for us. We were hurling angry words at each other like cannonballs:
“Oh, YEAH?” “And ANOTHER thing. . . .
“I did NOT!”
“You ALWAYS do!”
“Well, so are YOU!”
Who started this war of words? I’m sure I did. In our marriage, I tend to be the gas, and he tends to be the brakes. Together, we ride. But sometimes, we crash.
All I know is, when you’re tired and stressed out, stepping on crayons and Legos, changing diapers, giving baths, trying to figure out what to make for dinner when all you have on hand are some roofing tiles and pimiento because you haven’t had time to go to the store, with an extra 30 pounds strapped to your gut and straining your back because of the pregnancy — with all that going on, one can become rather irritable and easily provoked.
So thaaaaaar she blows! In my case, sky high.
I’m sure the big fight started when he said something hugely provocative such as, “It’s a nice night out, isn’t it?”
And I took it wrong, and retorted, “Yeah, but I got gum on my shoe, and the kids dumped flour all over the kitchen floor, and the dog has bad breath, and YOU still haven’t fixed the closet door!”
“The CLOSET door? How’d we get from ‘nice night’ to the stupid CLOSET door?”
And it was off to the races. You know:
“It hangs CROOKED.”
“No one’s going to SEE it.”
“I see it, all day, every day!”
“You PROMISED to fix it. You didn’t. You don’t CARE about me.”
“Well, why don’t YOU fix the closet door yourSELF, if it’s such a big deal?”
I had morphed into Brunhilda the Warrior Woman. Red face, bulging neck veins, fists clenched: a terrifying sight in my frumpy mint green robe with the brown plaid fuzzy slippers. (Warrior women only look hot in the comics.)
He was Thor the Terrible: pulled to his full height, intimidating in his striped boxer shorts, head down like a bull, eye- brows forming that ominous black “V.”
Just then, our sweet and beautiful daughter Jordan materialized at our door.
She was 4, a vision in beribboned jammies, squinting, her blonde hair squashed funny into a bedhair bouquet. Obviously, our loud argument had awakened her. She had clambered out of her little bed to come stand in our doorway.
“Mommy! Daddy!” she said, rubbing her eyes in the light.
We stared at her. She smiled. Our anger icebergs immediately melted.
We smiled back. “Talk little,” eh?
Great advice. Out of the mouths of babes. . . .
Chastened, we kissed her and carried her back to bed, leaning over to embrace her and tuck her in. “Sorry,” we whispered. “We love you. We love each other. We will work this out. See you in the morning light. Night-night.”
From that day, we resolved to “talk little” in working out the inevitable marital conflicts. We have to remind each other from time to time, but we’ve found that the mantra works.
When you speak in a small voice, disagreements seem smaller, too.
When you’re big enough to “talk little,” problems may still “snap, crackle, pop” . . . but they no longer go “kaboom.” †
A soft answer turneth away wrath;
but grievous words stir up anger
— Proverbs 15:1
By Susan Darst Williams | From the book, “Radiant Beams” | www.RadiantBeams.org | © 2020