How Did I Ever Survive Without You?

t-conflict-marriage

Do you, Steve, take this woman, and do you, Julie, take this man, to be your lawfully wedded spouse, to have and to hold, for better or “Ferwerda,” in sickness and in health, in constant reminders and helpful suggestions, in specific details, step-by-step instructions, and redundant directions, as long as you both shall live?

Something sounded suspicious about these vows on our otherwise picture-perfect wedding day, but without hesitation we naively looked at each other, smiled, and said, “I do.” After all, we knew beyond a doubt that God had brought us together for marriage, and we couldn’t wait to begin our lives together. Any obstacles, we were sure, would be overcome with God’s help.

How Did I Ever “Manage” Without You?

It wasn’t long after the wedding, however, that our first obstacle emerged. Pedaling along the mountainous backdrop of the Wyoming town we had relocated to right after the wedding, we were enjoying the late summer experience from our bicycles. Golden-tinged aspen leaves rustled in the light afternoon breeze, while dozens of elk grazed contentedly on nearby wheat colored meadows. The day was a perfect delight next to my newly acquired lifetime mate and best friend. My adoring thoughts centered on happily-ever-after with my new prince. I could tell he was caught up in romantic daydreams too and at any moment he would probably want to pull over and sneak a kiss. My lips were practically puckered with anticipation when he started to speak.

“You need to shift down.”

“What?” I inched closer to his bike, not sure I heard him right.

“Your gear?” he panted. “You are in too high a gear for this hill. Shift down a couple.”

Indignation welled. The happily-ever-after Cinderella of two minutes ago was replaced by the wicked step-sister of the here and now. Not only did he spoil a perfect romantic opportunity, he insulted my capability. Our first marital “breakdown in communication” followed my hot-headed retort. We didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the bike ride.

Later that night, after a kiss and make up session complete with “I’m sorry’s,” and “I love you’s,” my tender-hearted husband went into the kitchen to actively demonstrate his contrite heart. Whistling a happy tune, he began to clean up the dinner dishes. He loaded the dishwasher, wiped off counters, and was just finishing up when I came on the scene.

“Oh no! Honey, that won’t work. The plates go on this rack, the saucers on this one, and the cups and glasses go up here. And look — you’ve got to turn the silverware this way or they won’t get clean. Oh, and did you remember to spray the sponge with anti-bacterial??”

As I surveyed the disheartened look on my husband’s face, the truth stood between us like a double-sided mirror. “Forever after” entailed two micro-managers under the same roof — two people who would constantly try to manage each other’s behaviors, projects, and attitudes.

Under New Management

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In case you’re thinking, “What’s a micro-manager?” or, “Boy am I glad I’m not a micro-manager,” or “I hope my spouse reads this,”…take the quiz located in the sidebar to see if you too qualify. You may be a micro-manager and not even know it, preferring to think of yourself as just “detailed” or “thorough.”

My husband and I both fall under the “seek professional help” category. This can make for some interesting conflicts around our house. It’s not uncommon to hear such phrases as: I can’t believe I survived in this world for thirty-three years without you; How did I ever get my driver’s license?; You apparently think the book, Computers for Dummies was written with me in mind; And I thought applying toothpaste correctly was something anyone could do; Changing out toilet paper was a simple task when I was single; Next time we go out in public, remind me not to talk so I won’t say the wrong thing.

Although my husband and I have turned down the volume on many of our controlling tendencies through prayer and agonizing self-restraint, we’ve noticed it’s difficult to completely rid a micro-manager of all traces of the disease. This is because we micro-managers actually believe our attitudes and behaviors, for the most part, are necessary and correct. Unfortunately, the truth is that this type of behavior does not exemplify the gentleness or love of Christ, and is not conducive to a Spirit-controlled life.

Micro-managing situations, jobs, and people is really just a means of control. The more pronounced your control tendencies, the more likely you are to have problems being tolerated by (or living peaceably with) others. Here are a few practical suggestions for getting your control habits back in balance to improve marital intimacy.

  1. The first step is always to admit that you have a problem. Your spouse already knows about it and will be relieved that you recognize it too. Talk to your spouse about your desire to change so that they can be encouraged you are doing something about your behavior.
  2. Practice Trust. Begin by asking for help in small tasks and then work up to more important ones. Show confidence in your mate’s ability to help you out and let them know you believe in them.
  3. When asking your spouse to complete a task for you, it may be easier if you leave the room. Then you will not be tempted to watch over his (or her) shoulder or to criticize their work.
  4. Plan ahead for a botched job, or a task not getting done to your standards. You might just discover that it’s not the end of the world. Let the dishwasher get loaded incorrectly and find out that the dishes still get clean.
  5. Encourage creativity and independent thinking. When you notice that your spouse did something a different way than you would, acknowledge and appreciate the viable difference.
  6. For every critical word that leaves your mouth, give ten words of encouragement. Build up your mate’s confidence. Practice biting your tongue on critical thoughts.
  7. Make a mistake (on purpose) with your spouse. Ride in the wrong gear going up a hill or hang a towel the wrong way and see what happens. Chances are good, nothing will happen.

 

A Peace of Advice for Non-Managing Spouses

Although it is tempting to manipulate or to punish the undesirable behavior of our beloved controller (thus cultivating another type of control), convicting of sin and changing behavior is God’s job. The best way to change your partner is to pray for them, and to continue showing them unconditional love. Pray for patience while God is working on their character because change can be slow. And remember that, if you allow Him to, God can use this opportunity to work on your weaknesses as well. In the mean time, learning to live with them peacefully according to Romans 12:18 is surely the best option, so here are a few light-hearted suggestions for reducing conflict with your micro-managing spouse:

  1. Try to work on your own projects either at night when they are asleep or when they are away at work.
  2. When you make a mistake, brace yourself for the predictable, I-told-you-so’s.
  3. Remind them that although they are brilliant and more capable than anyone you know, there is more than one way to accomplish a task, and you would like to prove it.
  4. hen you sense their urgency for a certain task to be completed a certain way, move aside and let them take over.
  5. Encourage the other members of your family that they are not complete idiots and that they do have a worthwhile and contributing place in society.
  6. And lastly, never?I mean NEVER ask a micro-managing spouse to help you achieve a personal goal, as this is sure to backfire.

 

Such was the case when I asked my husband a couple of years ago to help me watch what I ate. I needed to drop a few pounds and I thought who better than my life partner to gently encourage me to be self-controlled and vigilant in this area of struggle.

His eager intervention was timed perfectly one memorable evening when our family of four dined out with another family of five. Consciously monitoring my intake, I cut my bread bowl salad in half and began to eat slowly. Three quarters into my half salad, my plate was suddenly ripped out from under me and my husband said loud enough that the next table could hear, “Honey, don’t you think you’ve had enough?”

All eight pairs of eyes stared back at my beet red face in strained silence, waiting for a potentially catastrophic reaction. Putting my peace-loving tactics into practice, I smiled sweetly and said in a calm voice, “Yes, I’ve definitely had enough! How nice of you to remind me to save room for dessert. Waiter! Please bring me the triple brownie deluxe sundae. Oh?and I only need one spoon for that.”

Copyright © 2006 Julie Ferwerda, Used with permission. Read more from Julie at julieferwerda.com

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