Either you both win or you both lose-This is part four of a series on marriage. I’m writing particularly to husbands in regards to how they relate to their wives, but the principles can be applied to all of our relationships. In the words of the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, we can “practice these principles in all our affairs.”
At the beginning of this series I wrote that I was going to include the following qualifying statements in each submission; therefore I best honor my commitment. The writer of the book of Hebrews explains: “God deals with you as with his sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten… Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, to those who have been trained by it, (Hebrews 12:7-11).” And boy have I been “trained by it”! My hope is that some of you can learn from my mistakes; therefore, “Oh mothers tell your children not to do what I have done, (“The House of the Rising Sun”, The Animals, 1964).”
It was over twenty years ago and we were about halfway into our forty-three-year marriage. I don’t remember what we were arguing about but I vividly recollect the scene. It was like the climactic scene from the classic Western, “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”. Susie and I were squared off and seated at opposite ends of the dining room table. Susie was upset with me and was letting me have it with both barrels; and Susie usually has to get pretty fed-up before she will unload.
To be honest, as Susie unloaded, I was only half-listening. I wasn’t trying or even wanting to understand. Like a chess player, I was carefully planning my defense, my next move. My goal was to get Susie into check and then into checkmate; game over, I win! Then God emphatically and authoritatively intervened and blocked my next move. He in no uncertain terms explained, “In relationships, there’s no such thing as a winner and a loser; either you both win or you both lose. Just ask her what she wants from you that you aren’t giving her.” Game over!
I know I’ve already shared the following quote, but like a nail, sometimes you can’t drive it home with one blow of the hammer, so here it is again. Paul Tournier, Swiss physician, wrote “Listen to all the conversations of our world, those between nations, as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf. Each one speaks primarily in order to set forth his own ideas; in order to justify himself… it’s the other person’s fault! It’s much easier than seeking out the inner fault! But it is absolutely sterile. This road leads only to spite, bitterness, inner revolt and the stereotyped mutual recriminations… (To Understand Each Other, Paul Tournier, 1962).”
Anger is usually just disappointment that has festered or become infected, isn’t it? This is true not only in marriage but in any relationship. So the next time we find ourselves squared off with someone, let’s discard our independent, competitive, possessive spirit of just demands and adopt a spirit of cooperation and fellowship. Let’s just ask them what they want and need from us that we aren’t giving them. But don’t ask that question unless you are sincerely willing to provide it.
Understanding is better than criticism and defensiveness; because in spite of what the popular board game implies, “Life”, is not a game. “In relationships, there’s no such thing as a winner or loser, either you both win or you both lose.” Wise King Solomon wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life, (Proverbs 13: 12).”
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others,” (Philippians 2: 3-4).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.