Are You Trying to Improve Your Marriage with a Dull Axe?
Ecclesiastes 10:10 states, "If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success." Some of us are exerting a lot of effort to make our marriage successful but we are tired. We feel exhausted. Basically, we are attempting to chop down an oak tree with a dull axe that is in dire need of being sharpened.
For example, during an argument with our spouse, we demand that they understand our point and acknowledge our feelings. This seems reasonable to us. After all, when they do this, we feel good and it betters the marriage, especially when they adjust to our concerns. However, it doesn’t seem as though we get through to our spouse as often as we expect, at least not on the startup of the argument.
A wife might say, “My initial criticisms and complaints, which I mouth because I care, seem to bounce off my husband. He doesn’t value my input but shuts down on me.” Or, a husband comments, “My withdrawing and stonewalling to de-escalate the argument, because this is the honorable thing to do, seems to ricochet off my wife. She doesn’t follow my lead and drop the matter but keeps casting aspersions."
Though our hearts are in the right place in that we do not have ill-will, our tools or methods are as helpful as a dull axe in the Redwood Forest. Consequently, we are growing tired of all the arguing. We are exhausting ourselves by exerting a ton of effort to be heard but the other isn’t meeting us halfway. Our exhaustive efforts do not cut them to the heart with conviction but deflect off them like a dull axe.
What wisdom do we need to learn and apply so that we have an advantage to succeed?
As a husband you must ask, “Does my honorable response actually feel unloving to my wife?” If so, you need to say to your wife, “I am withdrawing to calm down. I am trying to do the honorable thing. I am not trying to be unloving. Can we take a break for twenty minutes and resume after I have calmed down?”
As a wife you must ask, “Does my caring and loving response actually feel disrespectful to my husband?” If so, you need to say to your husband, “I am criticizing and complaining because I need your strength and empathy; I need to be reassured that you care. But please help me say this in a way that does not lead you to feel I am using this conflict as an opportunity to send you the message that I do not respect you.”
As a husband, you cannot appear unloving in your attempt to be honorable and respectful. As a wife, you cannot appear disrespectful in your attempt to be caring and loving. These approaches are as effective as a dull axe.
Questions to Consider
- Do you ever feel that you are “swinging at your marriage” with a dull axe? In what ways? How did the results you achieved differ from what you were aiming for?
- When you over-exhaust yourself in your attempts to work out a conflict, how do you typically react? Do you get discouraged? Try even harder? Shut down and give up?
- Why is the way you appear to your spouse while in conflict so important to the eventual reconciliation process?
- When in conflict with your spouse, you know that your heart is in the right place and that you do not have ill-will. Do you believe the same about your spouse? If so, how can this help you readjust your methods and work through the conflict better?