by JAVIER & SHANAN LABRADOR, The Marriage Flippers
“If I say something, she will be mad. Shoot. If I don’t say something, she will be even more upset. I don’t even know how to say it. I’ll ignore it. I’m sure it will go away!” Does this conversation sound familiar? I am sure you have had this conversation in your head many times. I have. What happens to the issue or unaddressed behavior? The issue or problem does not go away. It grows and begins to eat at you and your spouse. Left unconfronted, you or your spouse will feed it and tell yourself a false story. “You see, he doesn’t care enough to come after me and talk about it,” or “She always acts that way, and if I say something, nothing will change anyway!” Marriage issues do not go away. Dragons must be slayed, not left to slumber and gather strength.
Here is what I have learned after thirty years of marriage; avoidance is not a strategy if you desire a healthy marriage. One can undoubtedly try to kick the issue down the marriage road, but then it sits like strewn trash on a highway. You may have moved on, but it is still there and has an effect. If you find yourself being an avoider, then it is your fault! I know that is harsh, but you cannot blame your spouse; how they respond or react, you must own it, my friend. I spent the first five years of my marriage avoiding issues. Honestly, avoiding Shannan. We did not have an easy start to our marriage. Shannan was very strong-willed, and I was passive. Although I knew I needed to address issues in our relationship, there was no way I would poke the sleeping dragon. I came from a line of avoiders, from my great-grandfather, and grandfather, to my dad. They all were card-carrying avoiders. I saw the distance it created in their marriages and the lack of intimacy and connection they had with their spouses.
In the latter years of their marriage, my dad broke the generational avoider curse and set a precedent for me. Through his example, I finally learned that my wife was waiting for me to step up and lovingly confront her and not avoid her. She wanted me to lead and move towards her, even if she breathed fire now and then. She wanted to know I would fight for her, even if she did not know how to receive it in the early years of our marriage. This simple act of moving toward her changed everything.
Avoiding an issue or difficult conversation tells the other person they are not worth the effort of working it out. We have also seen one person in the marriage begin to stonewall or shut down, which may be rooted in their past or fear that something must be wrong with them if things are not well in their marriage. Soon, the stonewalled spouse will distance themselves whenever their spouse pursues them. With time, that spouse grows resentful and bitter and notices everything that disappoints them about their spouse. They become a lawyer instead of a lover; keeping record of all the past wrongs. Avoiding your spouse, the conversation, or the pain will create a void in your marriage.
Yet, when you move toward your spouse and address the issue with truth and love, then you fill your marriage with understanding and grace. You make room for healing. Regardless of how your spouse may respond or if she wants to avoid the tough conversations, you are responsible for having the conversation and communicating how you feel. So the next time you find yourself wanting to walk around the problem and not go through it, stop and say, “If I don’t say something, they may get upset. I may not know what to say, but I will not be an avoider!” Go ahead and poke the dragon!