Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Having Fun Instead of Fights

For years I nagged Tom about closing the closet door before he'd leave for work. It wasn't asking too much for him to remove his clothes and then shut the door, was it? Yet always, he'd drive blissfully away (well, maybe not blissfully since, after all, he was on his way to work) and I'd walk into the bedroom, see the opened closet door and start fuming. (And ok, I slammed it once. Or twice.)

And then there were the times I went ballistic when Tom would consistently arrive home late from running errands or when the visa bill would arrive and I'd see some enormous (huge!) charge on it which he'd made without telling me.

And there've been the instances he's gotten after me for the time I spend on the computer, for water left on the bathroom floor (gee, we've had some gigantic fights about that one) and the times he's walked past me while I'm painting walls and nagged me about being careful.

In 28 years, a couple can nag each other a whole lot. I know.

But something which I've noticed (after a few years I'd rather forget)? No matter what our subject of the day, each time we nag one another, two things are always involved. Fear and control.

No, really. Think about it. With the closet door, I wanted to control Tom into closing it because I had this fear of our room not looking nice with it open. After all, we might have company any second, they might tour our room--and if they did--they'd be horrified to see the inside of our closet. And well, it scared me that Tom seemed bent on not doing this one little thing I asked of him.

When Tom would come home late without calling me I'd go wild because I, at least a zillion times, had asked him to call if he was going to be late and it frustrated me that I just could not make him do that. And too, I'd pace around the house, picturing him lying inside our wrecked car (and practically planning his funeral)--not even realizing, myself, that this was a test for me as to whether I trusted God to protect Tom--or not. And clueless me was failing that test!

With the bathroom floor, Tom was afraid the water would ruin the floors/walls and that he would slip and so his lack of being able to make me see that (and try harder) frustrated him. If I'm on the computer when he wants on (and visa versa) he's afraid he won't be able to change our stocks around in time, etc., (whereas I'm afraid I'll miss something exciting here in Blogland).

The things we argue about always LOOK like one thing, but they are nearly always about two things--fear and control. (Your homework is to look at your own marital spats and pick out your own fear and control issues in each one.)

But here is what I'm finding, especially these last five years when I just started getting plain old tired of this childishness... The more control I desire God to have of myself, the less I nag Tom. And the less I nag Tom, the more often I see him--on his own--doing all those little things I'd tried nagging him into doing for years.

Really, I can hardly believe it! Not only does he close the closet door, but he picks up his clothes, places his dishes inside the sink, doesn't spend huge amounts of money behind my back and calls me even if he's going to be 10 minutes late (before I even notice he's late).

But I can hear you now... "Oh, I tried that with my spouse, but it didn't work." Yeah, and years ago I would have said that too. I'd stop nagging Tom for a whole two weeks, nothing would change, and then I'd rev-up the old nagging machine again.

But the change came in Tom only after a change came in me. A heart change. When I finally became sick of my ways, my plans and well, myself, that's when I sought to know God's ways, His plans and Himself. And then it was like pop! pop! pop!... One change after another happened in both of us.

And how nice to put away all the games and plans of manipulation and instead, watch real, true fun begin.

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