My friend and her husband were at my house a couple of years ago. It was their first year of marriage, and they somehow started arguing. The next thing I knew, she locked herself into my bathroom. Hours later back at their own house, she and her husband continued arguing. 

I asked her later what had happened. She said, “ 一日一小吵三日一大吵 / “One day a small quarrel and three days a big quarrel”  I looked blankly at her, and she quoted another proverb, “越吵越恩爱, “The more you quarrel, the more you love each other.” It sounded a bit strange, but I knew my friend had a hard childhood. I’m guessing she probably never had the chance to see what a healthy marital relationship might look like. 

Many of us grew up in families that never had conflict resolution. Conflicts were swept under the table as fast as Covid spreads these days. Arguments happened behind closed doors. No one told us what to do if we were upset. 

We wonder, “Do we stifle the issue or bring everything up and into the open?” Sometimes when we attempt to have “healthy and honest” conversations, we think that talking through absolutely everything that offends us, will help us build healthy relationships.

So often however, this leads to more conflicts. 

Our hearts are unpredictable and it’s easy for bitterness and resentment to quickly build up.

The best way forward is to forgive quickly and often.

I prefer this proverb: 不念舊惡 (forgive and forget.)

Forgive constantly

Our worlds and relationships can be better and healthier if we realise that constant quarrelling doesn’t help us build solid marriages.

The secret to a healthy marriage is not to fight daily but to forgive constantly.

What does that mean? 

It means that there will be minor offenses we need to let go of. It could do with spending money, an angry tone of voice someone had… maybe someone wasn’t paying attention, or he / she didn’t do a thorough job with the house chores, or it could simply be just fighting over who is right. 

Often when we aim to talk through everything, old issues are brought up, grievances are aired but not resolved, and your partner doesn’t concede that you are right. Perhaps too many words get said, and someone gets further hurt when words tumble out of mouths, “You do this every time,” or “You are stubborn and infuriating!” 

When you feel offended, take a time out. I sometimes slip into the bathroom to get some personal space. Maybe you can boil the kettle and while waiting, take a minute to breathe and choose to forgive. Once you forgive, then your feelings follow suit.

After all, forgiveness isn’t a feeling but a choice. 

If you can overlook the unwashed dishes in the sink or maybe the occasional time your spouse didn’t help with the kids, and receive your spouse at the end of the day without bitterness… chances are, your marriage will be held together with more grace and forgiveness. Choose your battles. Sure sometimes things need to be said. But if you are saying things every. single. day… It’s way too much. Take a time out. Refresh, reload, forgive, and get ready to restore.

Bridge the gap

Nothing changes my heart and attitude as much as hearing from my spouse, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” My defences go down. Restoration starts. So I imagine how powerful that can be for the other person to hear. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Even if it feels like the other person has more of the fault, let’s find it within us to bridge the gap. If we all humble ourselves a little more, stop fighting in our corner, and start restoring and letting things go, it can make room for love to reignite and peace to be restored. 

As for my friend, she struggled to let go of not being right. Thankfully she and her husband are doing great now. They eventually found peace by learning not to argue everything out and instead, to overlook minor offences. I’m cheering for them.   

Today, if you struggle with your spouse in this area, take a moment to label those things and choose to forgive.

Meaning take a step back, recognise that it could be petty, or call the problem out instead of making the person the problem, and recognise it as just that. Maybe you’ve been fighting, trying to do “healthy conflict resolution” (that just isn’t working) or frustrated with the bickering and bitterness. Take a moment to label those things and choose to forgive. After that, you don’t even need to announce that you’ve forgiven them. Just let it go. 

Perhaps you can ask your spouse for forgiveness if needed and then have some fun. See a movie, go for a walk together, or perhaps you could do something thoughtful and that would mean a lot to your spouse. 

Marriage is a journey. It’s not easy, but if we can keep peace and let go of offenses instead of arming ourselves for battle, then our households, families, and hearts will be at peace.    

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