When one half of a couple is as stubborn as me, fights usually make for funny stories. One time we were driving on the interstate headed from Memphis to Oxford for a baseball game and somehow what started out as a conversation about Memphis politics ended up with me giving Matt the silent treatment while I slowly scooted as far to the right in my seat as possible. It might have only been a few inches, but I was determined to put as much physical space between us as the confines of our small car would allow. Have I mentioned I’m stubborn?
Or there was the time we were having an argument and my voice started to get louder and louder until finally Matt decided to take the advice of our pastor in his series on marriage and called a time-out so we could have a few minutes to calm down. Upon seeing his hands make the time-out signal, I lost it worse than a football coach on the sidelines. Not now, mister. Not when I’m on a roll, deciphering my twelve-point dissertation on this grievance and a whole host of transgressions I’ve been holding onto for a time such as this.
Gratefully, over the past eight years of marriage and four years of dating before that, we have gotten better at fighting. I say we, but I had about 98% of the growing to do (and still have about 93% to go.) Matt has been patient with me, showing me much grace and forgiveness in our twelve years together. I’m learning that winning the fight means losing something in the relationship and to say, “I’m sorry” faster. And a few weeks ago I learned something else about fighting.
Happiness is a choice.
Certainly, I’m not the first one to realize this, but I usually have to learn things the hard way so it has taken me a little longer to glean this wisdom. And it should be mentioned that if you’re struggling with depression you need to reach out for help. Sometimes we get into a spot where we can’t get out without the help of professionals and friends who rally around us. But there are other times, the times when we just want to hang onto our grievance, tuck it in our pocket like a Swiss army knife, just in case we need it. Or when we want to use it like a knife to inflict pain so they might feel a little of the hurt that’s pierced our hearts. These are the times we need to remember happiness is a choice.
A few weeks ago Matt said something, and I quickly jumped into my insecurity bucket and bathed myself in fear and doubt. He realized immediately how I had taken it and apologized sincerely and with great sensitivity. But I had jumped into the bucket already and wanted to wallow there for a little while. The next morning he went out of his way to encourage me, but I dragged my bucket along like a bowling ball shackled to my ankle. That afternoon he asked me what he could do to close the gap between us, to bring us back together and I told him, “I was happy 1.5 seconds before you said that. But now, I can’t forget it and I just don’t know how to get back to happy again.”
A little while later I sat down to think and write and process my thoughts. And I realized it was a choice. Happiness is a choice. Just like so much of marriage is a choice. A choice between selfishness and selflessness. A choice between what I want and what he wants. A choice to focus on his strengths or his weaknesses. A choice to believe the best or to assume the worst. Every day in marriage we choose. And at this moment on this day I needed to choose happiness. I needed to choose to do the things I had been doing prior to being hurt, things like flirty texts and holding his hand and asking him how his day went. I needed to choose to feel the things I had been feeling prior to being hurt, remembering all the things I loved about my husband. I needed to remind myself of the million ways he encourages me every day and not focus on the one time he messed up. Like so much in marriage, happiness is a choice. Not an easy choice, especially when a pity party seems so inviting, but the kind of choice that weaves your marriage one thread stronger each time.