This past week my husband and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage. I finally feel like I have been married long enough to offer a lesson learned. I avoid difficult conversations as long as possible. If I can find a way out of them, I will. I will pass it off as no big deal. I will pretend it doesn’t matter. I will ignore my feelings. I will have an argument in my head but not with the person I’m upset with. This type of avoidance doesn’t work well in relationships particularly marriage. God made sure I learned this lesson early in our marriage.
Early on, as I was still navigating my emotions related to the icky neighbor, those emotions would interfere with my ability to deal with the intimate parts of marriage. I would set out on a quest to figure out what triggered my emotions. God would faithfully walk me down the path to healing the trigger. But there was always a catch. I had to tell Curt about it. I hated that part. I always worried that he was going to think I was defective in some way and regret marrying me. I would wrestle with it, and stew on it for days before I would have the courage to talk to him about it. Every time Curt would reassure me that I was normal.
Here’s the lesson. The more I would put off dealing with the trigger or having the conversation distance would start to build between us. There was a crack in our relationship that needed to be healed. Ignoring and avoiding it would build bitterness and resentment turning the crack into a cavern. This is true for any difficult conversation in any relationship that we are avoiding. Avoiding difficult conversations puts cracks in marriages, friendships, work relationships and organizations.
So here is my advice. We need to have the difficult conversations. We can’t allow anger, resentment, and bitterness to begin a stronghold in our hearts. This scripture tells us how to shape the conversations.
Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
If we approach every conversation with this scripture in mind, we will focus on how to build up and not tear down. I have to remind myself not to blame and accuse when approaching someone who I feel has hurt me. I have to remind myself that restoration and reconciliation are my goals. Whether the conversation is with Curt, a sister, a friend or a co-worker, I set my heart to build them up.
It’s still not easy to start difficult conversations. They are still my least favorite thing to do, and there are times when I would rather demand that it be done my way. The best thing I have done for my marriage is not allow cracks to become caverns by ignoring and avoiding conversations that are hard. Isn’t every marriage worth that? Having these conversations has resulted in greater intimacy, a stronger bond, and a deep commitment and gratitude to my husband. It is so easy for relationships to be torn a part. The world even tells us to walk away if it gets to hard, but it’s the hard stuff that relationships are built on. Don’t miss out on the fullness available when you say no to bitterness and resentment. It is going to be hard but it is sooooo worth it.
What have you learned from difficult conversations? How have they shaped you? Share your lessons and we can grow together.