We had been married for a couple of months - wonderful, busy, happy, stressful, full months. But here we were - having our first real difference of opinion as husband and wife. I knew I was right about this, but to my surprise, he seemed just as convinced that he was right. Justifications began swirling through my mind. I was right and I could prove it. My argument began taking shape. As it solidified, I knew I could win this. He would have to concede after I presented my case.
That was when a small question formed in the back of my mind: "What do you want to have happen here?" Yes, I could "win", but was that what I wanted? Did I really want to hurt the person I loved the most for the sake of "winning"?
I decided that no - that was not what I wanted at all! I wanted to come to some kind of resolution on this problem and I wanted it to be over. I wanted to be friends again. I wanted to feel close. I wanted to be on the same team.
I swallowed that fantastic "winning" argument. It never made its way to my voice. Instead, I told my husband that I wanted to work this out and I wanted to be friends. His face softened. We heard each other better. As the goal of being united became our focus, the problem itself became smaller. We figured it out.
After all was said and done, I told Greg about my experience: how that one question had completely changed my mindset. He adopted the approach, and it has become our modus operandi whenever disagreements crop up. Because they do! However, we discovered that night that they don't have to become "fights". Ever. I am happy to report that in 19 years of marriage, we have never once yelled at each other.
That doesn't make us better than anyone else. That doesn't mean that we are just "holding it all in." That certainly doesn't mean that we've led a charmed existence free from "real" problems. It means simply that we decided long ago to put our marriage ahead of any garbage that would surely come our way. And it has worked - beautifully.
But what about those times when you just can't get to that point of agreement? We waited to find out the gender of our first 4 children until they were born. We loved the surprise and the anticipation of waiting. However, when we were expecting child number 5, I wanted to find out. I was changing the rules. I was ruining the game, and my husband was not happy about it. We had so enjoyed those moments together - meeting that new little person at the moment of his or her birth and rejoicing in the surprise. Our discussion was going nowhere - we were both pretty firm in our opinions.
We took a page out of Stephen R. Covey's book at this impasse. I asked Greg, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this to you?" He said it was a 4 or 5, and asked me the same question. I replied, "It's a 9. If we're having another boy, I just need to get my head around it. I don't want to get my heart set on the possibility of having a girl, and then ruin that special moment with feelings of disappointment if it's a boy." (By the way - this tactic only works if you are totally honest. Anyone can inflate their numbers to "win" this game, but that makes it useless.)
My good husband deferred to my wishes on this occasion. We found out at our ultrasound that we were indeed having another boy, and I was ready for it. When he was born, we had his name picked out, and the little blue clothes were all clean and ready. I had dreamed about and anticipated my precious baby boy, and I was overjoyed to meet him.
Best of all, I was grateful to be having this adventure alongside a good man. A man that I know will always take care of my heart - who puts me before being right. And I do the same for him.
For more on the impact our words can have and how to use them for good, I love this talk from Jeffrey R. Holland.