What I Wish I Had Known

Rebecca E. Samson

What do I wish I had known before I got married? I wish I had known that we would fight about the littlest things. And those littlest things would represent the very core of who we are.

In my first year of marriage, my husband and I argued over a wide range of things, some of which seemed so mundane and insignificant, but looking back, I can see they were an indication of bigger fights to come. I wish we had properly dealt with the issues then and realized that they were part of a deeper issue.

Our first disagreement was about toothpaste — seriously. I would pick up the toothpaste, open the cap and squeeze the tube where ever. Then I closed it, and brushed.  This seemingly innocuous action irritated my husband. Every night he would meticulously roll the toothpaste tube up from the bottom.  He would ask me, “Why can’t you just look at the tube? I mean, it’s all set up for you to just squeeze from the bottom.”  My response was, “Honestly, I’m just not thinking about it.  I’m thinking about all the things I have to do around the house and for work. I’m just thinking about more important things.”

We never resolved this. It continued to be an issue for years. But there was no right or wrong here. Toothpaste wasn’t the real problem, the real problem was that we didn’t understand or accept each other’s needs.

This trait of mine – concentrating on “more important” things, or not paying attention to the little things, transferred to many other scenarios in which my husband got angry.  Once we had a baby and then two more, I would try to balance a clean home with the reality of dealing with kids. While trying to give everyone breakfast, get the kids dressed for school and prepare lunches, I would run to the pantry, grab some plastic forks and leave the pantry door wide open as I ran back into the kitchen.

Hours later, when my husband came home, the pantry door was still open.  He would grumble about it, but he didn’t actually talk to me about it.  I would get defensive and the cycle continued.

Again, looking back, I wish we had handled it differently. I wish instead of getting angry and then defensive, that we both just tried to understand each other more, that we both put in a bit of effort to relate to each other’s needs.

Because it’s not about the toothpaste, or the pantry door. It’s about understanding what the other one is feeling – and caring enough to modify our actions and behavior to avoid a fight.

What I saw as ‘no big deal’, he saw as disregarding his feelings.

What I saw as unjustified anger, was his hurt at being ignored.

Now, 7 years and 3 kids later we are working on these issues, but they have grown into larger, more deeply felt pain, which take time and effort to undo.

I wish I had known that instead of letting ‘little things’ fester, it was best to talk them out and understand the real issues behind them.

I wish that I had paid attention to the toothpaste and closed the pantry door and I wish that he had simply laughed at my quirks, knowing that I would never disregard him.

I wish I had read an article like this and known that paying attention to the little things could avoid bigger hurts down the road.

 

*** The author of this article has requested to remain anonymous.

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