There are two sides. Neither listen. Both are determined they are right.
No, I'm not talking about politics or the tone in our country. I'm talking about marriage and military love. (But perhaps what I'm about to say could help both scenarios.)
Surely you've been there. You and your spouse are in a heated argument, and he's just not listening. Or maybe she just won't stop talking long enough to understand what you are trying to say.
You have a very good reason behind what you are feeling, but so does he. You had the best intentions, but she just can't see them.
Now there is just too much water under the bridge, too much to sort through, too much to resolve to have hope this will ever last.
And then someone says it: "Maybe this is it."
Hopelessness is one of the darkest feelings in the world -- but also one of the most deceptive.
In the midst of it, you feel there is no way through or around it. It deceives you into saying things that you would never say otherwise, but they come spilling out when you're backed into a corner with no way out.
If we could just remember in that moment that there is another way through the conflict, that there is something else more powerful than our hurt, our stance, and our feelings.
Before I completely lose you, read on. I'm not talking about the kind of military love where we just choose to accept the other person and everything they are about. That kind of love is really just "tolerance," a Band-Aid. I'm talking about a much deeper love that I'm not seeing much lately. It is a love that is real and, because of that, painful.
As a culture and generation, we avoid pain and would rather demand the instant gratification of being first in all things: first to talk, first to be right, first to have our feelings validated. But real love, deep love, is powerful because it costs you something. To choose love means we tap into self-control and sacrifice our own desire to be right or first.
Some of you reading this are already pushing back saying, "But what if it is an abusive relationship?" If you are unsure, please talk to a professional.
However, the majority of you reading this are not in that situation. More often than not, it is easy to conjure up "evidence" that the relationship is unhealthy in order to feel entitled to take your spot as first.
Real love will always cost something. I'm not suggesting you sacrifice your feelings and never bring them up again -- that's being a martyr and is just as destructive to you and the relationship.
But truly loving the other person means we love them beyond the level that we understand them as we temporarily push down and sacrifice our pride. It is painful to say, "I will be the first to listen and tend to your feelings. I will sacrifice what I want in the moment, to listen to what is important to you."
That moment you push yourself to sacrifice being first will feel painful, excruciating even. Something in you will feel it is dying. And guess what? It is. Immaturity, pride, self-centeredness and ugliness inside of you is dying. But that is why the real kind of love is so powerful.
Having faith in its effectiveness is crucial. Love will simultaneously shape your character while mending the heart of another person. That is why marriage is one of the strongest assets we will have in our lifetime. Marriage will cost you your selfishness on a daily basis in return for maturity.
Contrary to popular belief, maturity is not the loudest in the room. It is often the quietest.
Think of this quote from an episode of the Netflix series "The Crown," where Queen Mary is encouraging the new Queen Elizabeth on leadership: "To do nothing is the hardest job of all. To be impartial is not natural."
Everything in you will want to win, but when you serve instead of taking first, you win something else: your spouse's heart.
Love first, go second. Over time, your spouse will likely return the favor -- and hope will return.
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