When we were first dating and married, JHubbs and I would fight about bills.
This is not your normal Why did you spend money on shoes type line of questioning. JHubbs was the one on defense. He had a serious problem remembering dates, bills, and paying debts on time.
So, time after time, I would find myself getting a call from a bank or company, or more commonly receiving a notice in the mail, and say How… on Earth… did you forget to pay your taxes for six months? or You forgot to pay the internet bill again? What is more important than this stuff?.
Like most absent-minded folks, JHubbs would shrug, feel awful, and say whatever he could say to make the problem go away. For a long time, I would just get mad. I tried different communication tactics such as talking loudly, talking softly, crying [when natural], or even putting it in writing. I thought he would surely change his behavior and everything would be fine.
Boy, was I wrong. In fact, it just kept happening, and I was just getting angrier. And that made JHubbs feel worse and worse.
But let’s think about this concept in a different way.
I used to be a very emotional person. If I had a fight with my mom, I would cry and be very upset. If I had a bad day at work, I would cry. It was my natural reaction to extreme emotional distress and I seemed to have that distress a lot in my twenties.
Whenever I felt this way and acted this way, JHubbs was kind, understanding, and accepting. He would listen to me, hold me, and offer advice when I asked or stay quiet when he felt I needed to talk.
Imagine if he had yelled at me. Or been angry with me, saying Why do you always cry? Why do you feel this way again, why won’t you act differently?
JHubbs was naturally extending compassion to me. He accepted this trait of mine (for better or worse) and changed his actions based on my needs. I have since learned to be more judicious with my emotions and reactions.
Within days of this realization, I tried a new tactic. The bill came in the mail — ignored, unpaid — and I kindly turned to JHubbs and asked him how I could help. We sat down together, we talked about our habits and needs, and we’ve since changed all the bills and contact information to my name. I tend to the bills and we found a different, comparable duty that works for him. It works for us.
I had not been forgiving the way that JHubbs was being forgiving to me. The same way he would never say to me How dare you be sad again. Why won’t you stop reacting this way to your emotions? is the same way I should never say to him How could you forget this bill? How is this not important to you?.
A marriage combines the traits of two people — flaws and all. But some traits are flaws that you need to work around together and some traits are problems that need to be corrected together. For JHubbs, being absent-minded is a flaw, and my severe reaction was the problem. We now work around his flaw and talk about organizational habits to help him. I also approach situations more carefully and with more understanding than before.
By making room for my partner’s flaws and being open to the idea that it was me who needed to change, we were able to take one more step towards marital harmony. And it is so nice to live in a house of understanding, forgiveness, and kindness!
Do you have a flaw your partner has forgiven, or vice versa?