Can seemingly good things cause tension between you and your spouse?
Allow me to set the stage for you. I, Brad, have always loved music. Sometimes it feels as if well-written song lyrics, and the music that delivers them, help me to better understand things about myself. For example, if I hear a well-written love song, I will often feel more in touch with my own feelings about love and relationships. This means that a good love song can help me process feelings of love and affection for Tami, my wife. Therefore, when I hear a good sappy love song that speaks to me deeply, I play it on repeat — sometimes for days or weeks — or longer! This has become both a source of laughter, and a source of tension, between Tami and I. Please allow me to explain.
You would think any song that can get me more in touch with my affections for Tami would also be appreciated by her, right? Not necessarily! If music were alcohol, Tami has champagne taste. And not just any champagne, but only the really good stuff! My musical tastes, as compared to alcohol, would more likely be anything that goes into a glass. You see, I like music that speaks to me – I like music that mooooves me. For me, the sound is secondary to the message. For Tami, it's the other way around. We have different tastes. We both like music, but we like it differently and this is why it can cause tension between us. But it certainly doesn't have to.
Tami and I have learned to appreciate our differences, to see them as bringing balance to our relationship. And this, in turn, allows us to be vulnerable with each other. If we never pushed past the tension that our different tastes in music can bring, we would be stuck in the land of misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and increasing tension. What we choose instead, is to embrace our differences and even laugh at them WITH each other. We are not laughing AT each other, but WITH each other and there is a profound difference between the two. Laughing at each other can be costly in terms of how safe we feel being vulnerable with each other. Laughing with each other creates shared connections, builds on our foundation together, and helps to increase our vulnerability.
Vulnerability is essentially letting the walls of your fortress down for a specific person. To carry the fortress metaphor one step further, this means you can be attacked more easily by someone from the outside since your walls of protection have been lowered. If you often need to keep your walls up around your spouse, it is either because they are unsafe or because you are too closed off and fearful. If your spouse is truly unsafe, please go and see a good marriage counselor since this barrier to a good marriage will not fix itself. If, on the other hand, you are closed off and fearful, you are shooting yourself in the foot! Being closed off and fearful will cause extreme tension in your relationship as you desire for your spouse to be emotionally close, but essentially push them away at each opportunity for closeness. It's a dysfunctional dance that wears out both spouses very quickly.
What if your spouse has hurt you in the past? In other words, what if they have hurt you while your walls were down? In all honesty, at times this will happen even in the healthiest of relationships. If this describes your relationship, you must forgive and move on. Forgiveness is always more about the forgiver (you) choosing not to harbor resentment than it is about whether or not your spouse deserves forgiveness. You must learn to ask yourself, "What was my spouse's intention? Did he/she mean to intentionally hurt me?" Most often the answer will be no! Remember that when you forgive another human for a wrong against you, whether perceived or real, you are showing them grace. And grace is only difficult to give when you are trying to keep score. Don't.
If you want a healthy marriage, you must work past the barriers that keep you from being vulnerable. You must be able to let your guard and your walls of protection down. This means that, yes, you will get hurt occasionally. Occasional hurt is simply the price of admission to a deep and meaningful relationship. It will happen and that is what grace and forgiveness are for.
Once you have truly forgiven your spouse, then vulnerability will not feel so threatening to you. And once vulnerability starts to become the norm in your relationship, you will notice that you relax more, laugh more, and begin to see more areas in which you share interests with one another. This healthy cycle in marriage will serve you well and keep you content in your marriage. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. If shared interests, laughter together, or vulnerability start to wane, this means the cycle is spinning the wrong way and you must work to turn things around. Think of laughter, shared interests, and vulnerability as the trifecta that can help keep your marriage on track and your life happy, or if not managed well, can suck the life and love out of an otherwise great marriage.
Many people have come to believe that being vulnerable will expose their weaknesses and that this is bad. The truth is that being vulnerable with another human will expose your weaknesses, but this is actually good. Think of it this way, it takes a certain amount of strength to let your walls down and to admit your weaknesses to your spouse. It sounds counterintuitive at first, but it will make sense if you think about it. Say it again and let it sink in this time, "I am strong enough to let my spouse know my weaknesses." This is a healthy mindset and feels so good once you learn to do it. Let your walls down and let your spouse in. This is where the fun and laughter begin!
If you have any comments or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.
By Brad & Tami Miller. Contact us at brad@TandemMarriage.com. Copyright © 2019