Within the first couple years of our marriage, my husband and I started affectionately calling each other ‘butthead.’ It’s not a phrase we use when we’re upset, but a term of endearment with the truthful undertone that we both know we aren’t always perfect. In fact, there are some days that marriage is really hard.
I’d like to say that it’s always the man’s fault. That men are bad communicators and too stuck in their own ways to see both sides of an issue. That their focus is too much on work and not enough on home. That they are more interested in winning an argument than working things out. I’d like to say that they are just generally buttheads. I will say that there are times when all of those are true.
But there are just as many times that we women are to blame. That we are overly moody and sharp-tongued. That we put more time into being a parent than being a wife. That we harp on our men about the things they need to change instead of realizing that we can only change ourselves. Pretty much, we are buttheads just the same.
So take two stubborn, human, broken, sinful buttheads and put them into a lifelong relationship in a confined space sharing not only their individual shortcomings but together trying to help each other through the tough struggles of life like parenting, debt, family relationships, health issues, and careers, and it’s not always a recipe for happiness. Sometimes it’s just plain hard.
I’ve been married to my husband for almost 17 years now. We’ve got most things down to a routine. I clean, he cooks. I handle the schedule, he handles the money. I did Girl Scouts, he does Boy Scouts. We go through our days with the normal chats about what’s for dinner and what bills are due and scatter in the heavy talks about children’s punishments and changing jobs now and then. We bicker over something insignificant every couple weeks and about every other month, we have a big fight. I’m sure you know the kind – it starts with a small argument and escalates until we are both yelling and not listening to each other at all. I usually cry, and he walks away when we’ve both said the same thing over and over and not gotten anywhere. We go to our respective ‘corners’ and pout, gripe, fume – all those human emotions – and then later or the next day we talk it out and begin the cycle again. Most people don’t talk about those arguments out loud – but I’d say most married couples have them on a regular basis. That’s part of being buttheads.
Today was one of those days. I did something rude, and he responded with something snarky, and writing this blog is now part of the pouting stage of the blowout that followed. I’ve come through all these years to realize that I love my husband every day. But there are a good handful of days that I don’t actually like him all that much. I`m sure there are just as many days that he wonders what he was thinking when he married me. It takes an effort on both of our parts to keep our marriage strong. There are things we’ve faced when it would be so much easier to give up and move on. But the bigger effort comes from our heavenly Father who showed us how to do the two most important things in any marriage – love and forgive. Matthew 19:6 tells us “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” I know that God brought us together for a reason. And who am I, in my short-sighted anger, to think that I know better than He does? That thought is what pulls me through the pain to find my true feelings on the other side where love is so much bigger than any one argument or difference of opinion. It’s bigger than hurtful words and raised voices. It’s bigger than little white lies and marital apathy. And when love isn’t big enough, forgiveness is.
I heard somewhere that there are 11 words that you need to know how to say in any successful marriage. They are:
I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.
They need to be said in that order. It’s hard to accept love before the offer of forgiveness. And our human giving of forgiveness is harder without seeing some remorse. These aren’t the only words needed, but they are a good start toward working things out. They are the words I will say to my husband when I finish writing this. Although I believe I will add one more – butthead.
Practicing my twelve words,