The 7 Words Changing My Marriage

The 7 Words Changing My Marriage

*This was originally posted October 29, 2013. We discussed conflict last night with our Making Marriage Make Sense group after Andy’s talk on Time Bombs and Freight Trains. I thought of this post and these seven words.

I used to think love happened like it does in the movies. Then I got married and discovered it most certainly does not. In the movies love is a series of grand gestures with a beautiful score running behind it making even the scenes with conflict take on a rosy glow. If I could have three wishes, having a soundtrack set to my life would certainly make the list. But in real life, marriage is a lot more dirty laundry, overflowing garbage cans and bills to pay than it is long, lazy coffee dates and walks through the park. While love might not work like it does in the movies, I’m learning happily ever after is possible and even better than Hollywood can write it.

There are a lot of words that are important in marriage. I love you. Thank you. Till death do us part. But these seven words are the ones changing me and thus changing us

I’m sorry.

When Matt and I first got married, I wasn’t good at saying, “I’m sorry.” (Truth be told, I still struggle. A lot.) I was really good at pointing out all the things he needed to be sorry for and really good at justifying all my hurtful actions. I like to win and I like to be right, a lethal combo in arguments with your spouse. I will fight to the end just to win an argument, and sometimes when it’s over I can’t even remember what I was fighting about. Winning feels good in the moment but feels pretty awful in the end. The hard lesson I’m learning is that winning the argument means losing something in the relationship. Save yourself some pain, and learn to say, “I’m sorry” quickly and often. Saying, “I’m sorry” is vulnerable because it means admitting I’m not perfect, but vulnerability is the stuff of great marriages.

How can I help you?

Everyone gets hung up on the idea of submission because we make it into a power struggle. Who’s calling the shots? Who’s in control? But really the question that makes a marriage thrive, the question that diffuses all the tension with submission is simple, “How can I help you?” It’s not a complicated question, but we don’t ask it because we’re scared of the answer. What if he says he needs me to iron his wrinkly pants or host that annoying work colleague for dinner? What if she says she needs me to give the dogs a bath or take out the trash that smells like rotten bananas? We don’t ask because we don’t want to hear the answer, but this one question can radically change our marriage. When we ask this question and then carry the request out, we don’t just mark something off our spouse’s to-do list. It’s something much bigger than that. In reality, we are laying down our selfishness and choosing to elevate our spouse. It looks like vacuuming or cooking or scrubbing the toilet, but it feels like love.

It might not be glamorous. There probably won’t be a gorgeous soundtrack lilting in the background. But I’m finding the happily ever after I long for comes from these seven words…

I’m sorry.

How can I help you?

3 thoughts on “The 7 Words Changing My Marriage

  1. You are a wise woman, Elissa. These simple yet difficult to enact words are transformational! I’ll keep on wrestling with them too.

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