It’s resolution week on Hot, Holy & Humorous! Meaning I’ve been covering goals we should make in 2020—for ourselves, our marriages, and our sex lives. Today, let’s talk about a common pitfall we want to avoid going forward.
A Personal Story
My husband has been rearranging in the kitchen lately. For years, I’ve been the one mostly deciding where and how things belong in our drawers and cabinets. If someone in the family didn’t follow my plan, no worries—I was the one home far more than they were, so I’d just fix the error while they were gone and move on.
Cue a change in my husband’s employment, and now he’s home a lot and moving things around. Of course I’ve handled this all beautifully…
Okay, FINE. I’ve huffed, eye-rolled, and lodged several complaints about the equilibrium of my kitchen being upended!
Spock has his reasons for wanting the changes, and now he was finally around enough to make those changes happen. Meanwhile, I have my reasons for wanting things to stay the same, and I’d already established a system! At some point, it seemed to come down to a silent battle over how a particular set of glasses would be placed in the cabinet. He’d put a glass away and change their positioning to his way (“the wrong way”), and later I’d see them and change them all back to my way (“the right way”).
Yeah, because that’s not causing any tension in our marriage. #sarcasm
But a day or two ago, I was staring at that cabinet of glasses and thinking: I should just let him have his way. Wouldn’t that be the nice thing to do? Then I had an even better thought: What if there’s some way to address each of our reasonable concerns about these glasses with an entirely different approach?
Turns out, there is. I mentioned my idea to my husband, we talked about that alternative, and it will be implemented.
Before you go thinking I have no business ever writing about marriage because I nearly declared World War III over the storage of drinking glasses, the actual amount of time and emotion expended on our kitchen issue was probably mere minutes. And hey, we did resolve it!
I’m only telling this story to illustrate a pitfall we often have in marriage. A husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn’t have to be you or me—it could be us.Too often in #marriage, a husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn't have to be YOU or ME—it could be US. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey labels this principle “Think Win/Win.” He talks about how Lose/Win or Win/Lose outcomes are appropriate at times:
If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t really that important, you may want to go for Lose/Win in some circumstances to genuinely affirm the other person. “What I want isn’t as important to me as my relationship with you. Let’s do it your way this time.” …
There are circumstances in which you would want to Win, and you wouldn’t be highly concerned with the relationship of that win to others. If your child’s life were in danger, for example, you might be peripherally concerned about other people and circumstances. But saving that life would be supremely important.Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
But in most situations, Lose/Win or Win/Lose creates more conflict or feelings of resentment or trust issues in a relationship. It’s much better to look for a Win/Win.
While Covey’s book is aimed at business leaders, he notes how much more important this principle is in marriage: “‘Who’s winning in our marriage?’ is a ridiculous question. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”"'Who's winning in our #marriage?' is a ridiculous question. If both people aren't winning, both are losing." ~ Stephen R. Covey (via @hotholyhumorous) Click To Tweet
Who’s Winning in Your Marriage?
My father used to tell the joke that married couples promise to become one—and then spent the rest of their marriage figuring out which one to become. That joke’s funny because of how ridiculous it sounds. And yet, how often do a spouse’s actions convey that’s what they secretly believe?
In the realm of sexual intimacy, spouses can end up playing tug-of-war over frequency, repertoire, etc. The mindset becomes “if you get what you want, I don’t get what I want. But if I get what I want, you don’t get what you want.” If those are the only two options, one spouse will become the Win/Lose mate and the other will be the Lose/Win mate. But then nobody’s really winning.
If you’re always or often winning your way, or if you’re always or often giving in, you’re likely losing the intimacy of marriage. Much better for both of you to get a win.
“Let No One Separate”
This is even more apparent when we look at it all biblically. As Jesus says:
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Mark 10:7-9
Now, of course we are individuals. We don’t get married and fuse into one Frankensteinian creature. Moreover, God still judges us individually. Romans 2:5 says, ‘God “will repay each person according to what they have done'” (citing Psalm 62:12).
Yet throughout our lives, we are united, one flesh, joined together by God. If you try to win your way against your spouse while they lose, you’re taking both of you down. You’re too intertwined for one’s views, emotions, and actions not to affect the other.
Moving from You or Me to Us
Excluding my kitchen fail story, I mostly view issues in my marriage not in terms of what’s good for me or for him, but rather us. It’s a perspective I’ve had to cultivate. Actually, I’m still cultivating it and will be until I die, or he dies, or we die together (Win/Win).
Sometimes, I give in because Spock’s way matters more to him than my way matters to me or when I simply choose to bless him in a particular moment. Sometimes, he gives in because the roles are reversed. But most of the time, we’re looking for a third alternative that gives us both a Win/Win.
With sex in marriage, Win/Win could mean:
- Compromising about frequency
- Taking turns with which sexual activities you each like most
- Finding a new activity that meets the underlying desire (rather than the activity under contention)
- Seeking counseling to work out what seems irresolvable
The Win/Win for your marriage depends on your specific scenario. But we should resolve to stop viewing problems as you or me and instead see them as an us thing.
Look, even if the problem really is your spouse, get on board with making it an us issue. It’s hurting both of you, so marshal your forces to work together on resolving it! Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” So already, just by being married, you should have double the power to fix a situation.Even if the problem really is your spouse, get on board with making it an US issue. It's hurting both of you, so marshal your forces to work together on resolving it! #marriage Click To Tweet
Add God into the mix, and you definitely have a winning team! “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
That us mindset might be just what you need to face the future and move forward with your spouse. It won’t resolve everything tomorrow, but you won’t be tugging in different directions. You’ll be on the same path taking the journey together.
How have you struggled with you or me instead of us? When have you been able to come up with a Win/Win for your marriage?
10 thoughts on “Resolution Week: Not “You” or “Me” But “Us””
You may as well see it true,
that which soon will be.
Life’s gonna be all ’bout You,
and there will not be We.
Don’t really want to hit the road
from which there’s no return,
but cancer is a heavy load
and I am meant to burn.
Your life, my dear, must go on
just like the wild west show
when the dancing circus-clown
dies in the rodeo.
Weep for me, if you must,
but don’t let salt tears your future rust.
I agree, in principle, that using the “us” approach is the way to go. However, applying it to our sex life is very difficult.I am the high drive spouse, she is the low drive. She does not see a problem with having sex once every 3 weeks. If there is a “problem”, it is “my problem” and I need to resolve it myself. I have pursued various ways to reduce my sex drive but I have failed every time. Now I am working on being content with my circumstances since I cannot change her.
One of my pet peeves about other people is the attitude that “if it’s not a problem for ME, then it’s not a problem.” It occurred to me one day that I might be guilty of the attitude myself, particularly in regard to my and my husband’s sex life as I was not especially motivated to improve it even though we’re great friends. I started trying to encourage him in certain areas and looking for ways to make him feel more “manly”, and while things still aren’t perfect they’re better than what they used to be (I think).
I can’t offer any suggestions on how to “change” your wife, except perhaps to consider areas that are important to her that you might have neglected because they’re not high on your own priority list. Who knows…they say that sex begins in the kitchen!
This is one of my favorite things you’ve written, so simple yet so profound. And the personal story was perfect ?
Aw, thank you! Glad it touched you.
Sounds as if with a little vision, and recognize that navigating to the 3rd alternative is when solutions are discovered. The kind of solutions that can emotionally stimulate the mind of spouses and couples.
I’m sure if my spouse and I had been through credible pre-marriage counseling before we got married, we would’ve skipped over the 1st and 2nd colliding alternatives and found the mutually soothing alternative, much sooner than we did, for the first 30 years of marriage.
Better late than never.
The glasses in the cabinet metaphor, is humorous. But to have thought provoking dialogue with a spouse to agree way in advance to avoid sparring but instead to embrace one another’s sensitivities, where both are communicating in a way that both can see where the other is coming from, like they are going in and out one another;s mind like a revolving door, can cause the clothes to fall off.
J. I love this post. It’s amazing how we are thinking alike on this very topic. I was about to sit and write a post, but read yours and realized I can’t say it any better.
The Lord impressed on me that the Us we are called to be can also stand for United States. This led to the question, “How is our United State?” Or are we not united but separated? Unity matters for the marriage to move into all God intends. Sure marriages can last as You and Me, but those will never know what they missed.
This post is a clarion call to a better marriage.
If you don’t mind I’m sharing this in my Physical Intimacy series this week. It’s so good and I thank you sweet friend.
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