This morning on the bus my mom called me and asked if Husband and I would be willing to come to my grandma’s house on Sunday. She was having a ‘summer party’; I couldn’t think of a reason why not and so told her yes, of course we’d come. Since my extended family hasn’t met since Easter we’d also be doing a mega birthday party for everyone who has a birthday in the summer (including Husband).
When I got to work, I had about 15 minutes to kill, so I called Husband and let him know where we’d be on Sunday. I thought he’d be okay with it since the only plans we had this weekend were his bike ride on Saturday and a trip to the zoo on Monday.
Oh, party people everywhere … his bike ride is on Sunday. And it is a morning to night ride.
What ensued after this was a fight of epic proportions, if such a fight can occur over the phone, battling the great family vs. bike ride debate. There was a lot of swearing and a lot of my opinion (we rarely see my extended family, he has three other bike rides this month) and his opinion (he simply did not want TO GO, I don’t support his biking).
In the end, he huffed, “FINE! I won’t go on the ride!”, shot off an explicative, and hung up.
I did not feel victorious.
I talked to my coworker about this and asked what she thought of the situation. First off, she told me that I was right, especially since he’s gone on numerous rides this summer and would be going on three more very soon. Family is always a priority (especially once I explained that we hadn’t been to an extended family gathering since Thanksgiving). Second, she pointed out to me that Husband had probably been simply looking forward to the ride and was upset to give it up, even if he knew deep down the party was more important. She told me not to gloat about “winning”.
Instead, she told me to go get a thank you card and write him a note, saying how much I appreciated him willing to give up his ride, how thoughtful and generous it was, and how I knew it was hard for him to do that. She also told me to write about how I DO support his biking (since that seemed to be an issue with him) and write down why I think his biking is so great (it keeps him healthy, it makes him happy, he gets to take new adventures).
So I did this. I made sure I wrote in there that I loved him, that I loved how honest we could be with each other, that he was an exceptional husband for giving up something he really wanted to do to make me happy. I stressed the last part, adding that I didn’t know many people who would be willing to do that. I stressed this because after his divorce, Husband went to therapy because he felt he needed to learn how to be a better person, boyfriend, husband, dad. I wanted him to know that giving up this ride proved that he was a really great husband.
I gave it to him when I got home and he simply said, ‘That card meant a lot. Thank you for writing it.’ We hugged and made up, and he’s going to go for a ride by himself sometime over the weekend.
I wrote about this because I think it’s a great marriage action. Fights are hard and can be dirty; if they’re about something personal enough, everyone gets hurt. It’s easy to turn a fight into tunnel vision about getting my way. This exercise allows the person who ‘won’ (when a compromise can’t be reached) to acknowledge and thank their spouse for being gracious enough to make a change. You’re not saying ‘thanks for caving’ or ‘thanks for seeing how right I was’. You’re saying, ‘Thanks for doing such and such for me. It shows how much you love me, and it makes me love you more.’