Esther Vandersluis was ready to let her husband have it.
As the mom of two, who blogs at A Beautiful Alarm, wrote on Facebook, her first reaction to her husband’s text about being home late was that he was joking. He couldn’t possibly have forgotten he had to take their daughter to her swim lesson. When Esther realized he wasn’t joking, her next reaction was rage. She wrote:
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that he forgot. It wasn’t fair to his daughter and it wasn’t fair to me. He was for sure in the wrong.
Full of the righteous anger that comes when you know you’re right and your husband messed up, she did start to rage at him. But then she “stopped halfway”:
“You know what, it’s okay. It’s not a big deal.” I interrupted my beginning rant.
“It’s fine, I’ll leave right now. Be there in an hour.” He responded.
He made it on time. He apologized. Boy am I thankful I didn’t continue on that raging rant. Truthfully, only a little bit ago I would have.
So what made the difference this time? Why didn’t Esther give in to the urge to unload on her husband for forgetting the swim lesson?
It was remembering that, “Marriage isn’t always ‘fair.’ It isn’t always 50/50.” And the route to a healthy marriage can’t be found in justifying your anger because the other person messed up.
As Esther went on to remind wives, their husbands will make mistakes — like forgetting things, not helping around the house, not picking up on hints that it’s time for a date night, not listening, and leaving the toilet seat up.
But, as she pointed out, wives aren’t immune from mistakes, too — like forgetting things, overlooking what he’s done to help, nagging, and taking a long time to get ready.
As Esther told Dearly, it’s tempting to keep track of what each person is contributing to the marriage:
“Often, when we go into a relationship, and especially marriage, we think about the work being put in as being half and half. He made dinner twice this week, so I will make it twice this week. He cleaned the living room so I guess I will clean the bedrooms. He got to spend a night out so I get to spend a night out tomorrow. He messed up last week so it’s fine if I don’t treat him the best this week.”
Tempting, but also destructive. Marriage isn’t a game, and keeping score in this way leads to problems:
“It becomes a game of comparison and of questioning who messed up less and who is working harder. If relationships become about this, they will fail. Our actions towards our partner need to come from a place of selfless love.”
That’s why it’s self-defeating to look at marriage as a 50/50 split. That kind of thinking belongs to courts of law, not the complexities of building a life together. As Esther told Dearly:
“Marriage can’t be 50/50 because we each aren’t able to give fully 50 at every moment in time. Marriage has to be you working on giving 100 percent at all times, despite the mistakes your partner is making that moment.”
Obviously, it’s not easy to give everything instead of half and to overlook the times your spouse falls short. But as Ether added, that’s what creates a strong relationship:
“Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s not ‘fair.’ But it’s love. You sowing grace to him in those moments will give him the ability to show you grace in moments where you ‘fail.’ Love is selfless, full of grace, and full of forgiveness. And isn’t love the reason we married in the first place?”
That doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally unload on your spouse when he or she falls short. As Esther wrote, she started to do so herself. But holding back has its own rewards — not only for your marriage, but for your own personal growth. As she told Dearly:
“The more I work on that, the easier it becomes to show grace in moments like those. That grace extends much further than just that moment and thus results in a more peaceful and loving marriage.”
And it worked. Her husband came home just in time to go to the swim lesson. He apologized for the mistake. And Esther got the chance to show grace and forgiveness. As she wrote on Facebook, “We always have a choice in these moments.” We can choose to express our anger and frustration. But there may be a better path. As Esther wrote:
“Or we can choose to take a breath. To pray. To forgive. To remember we all aren’t perfect. To love despite the wrong.”