Math. It was my favorite subject in school. Not so much for my bud, Bex.
Last week he learned a new math skill.
Since math was my favorite, I can get easily frustrated with him when he doesn’t just “get it” right away, or if I feel like he’s simply not trying. And honestly, it’s often hard for me to tell the difference between those two.
Well…enter in multiple digit division.
Oh you know, the stuff they told you we had to know for real life. I mean honestly, who is going to divide 54,201 by 23 without a calculator? Not me! I have Siri for that.
I’m sure you can guess by now that it didn’t go so well.
His face seemed to look engaged but then he would just stare into space. He would look at the same problem for minutes at a time before writing anything down. My frustration quickly escalated. My voice got harsh and my responses were quick and strict.
When I made another response along the lines of, “I don’t understand why you aren’t getting this,” I saw tears well up in his eyes and his lip began to quiver.
I took a breath and with just a quick second to analyze what I was about to say, I asked, “Is learning this new skill frustrating you, or is it how I’m responding to you? It’s ok, you can answer honestly.”
He looked at me quickly, as if he wanted to hesitate in answering, and said, “Both equally.”
My natural thought was that I wanted to get defensive and put the blame on him for not getting the math skill.
But I didn’t.
I responded, “I understand. I would probably feel the same way if I were you. I’m sorry for getting frustrated so quickly. What if we looked into getting a math tutor? What do you think about that?”
We both agreed trying a math tutor might help both of us overcome this math anxiety.
Here’s what the Holy Spirit taught me in that moment. I’ve got to ask the right questions while allowing an honest response.
I could have asked the same question but gotten very defensive when Bexley honestly answered that I was part of the problem. It’s not easy to hear that. But had I gotten defensive, I would have lost his trust in him being honest with me.
Instead, allowing him to answer honestly and resolving our conflict together built trust in our relationship.
Please understand, this has not always been the case! And it’s highly likely that it will not always be the case in the future. But this time was a win, and I got the opportunity to grow through it.
This concept translates equally in our marriages. When you and your spouse are not agreeing on something, can you ask the right question and allow for an honest response? This is something I have been trying to be better at.
Can we mean what we say and understand what we hear?
If so, you are resolving conflict and building trust! Be encouraged!
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know when to ask the right questions and to help you have the right attitude in receiving an honest response. The best time to practice this new skill is not during conflict, but asking an intentional question while emotions are positive.
Challenge: After dinner tonight, ask your spouse to share in an exercise with you. You can call it “Practicing Honesty.”
Each of you list two positive things your spouse did for you this week that you did not verbally acknowledge to him/her. Then list one thing your spouse did that irritated you. Both of you write these down with the the negative sandwiched between the positives. Each of you read your list (positive, negative, positive) to one another, and only reply with a “thank you.” If you would like to discuss the negative item, wait at least 30 minutes before talking about it. This time will help to deflate any defensive emotions you might be tempted to lash out with.
This challenge will help you if practicing honesty is not a habit in your marriage. If you practice this exercise on a weekly basis for just a few weeks, you will probably find that you will no longer need to write your thoughts down. It will be natural for you to share your thoughts with one another in a healthy way. This will also save your marriage from hours of unnecessary bickering!
Growing with you,