The first time we ever sought help to resolve a nagging conflict with hubby, I had put together a list of 10 items. I labelled them 'contention areas'. He had with him a modest list of four contention areas.
In the course of the couple counselling session, his list grew to 14. He had added all of mine onto his list.
“Actually, I have about 10 more contention areas. I just highlighted the very critical ones,” I announced and quickly added 10 more items.
With time, I have learnt that it is easy to draw up a list of as many as 50 faults that we oh-so-clearly see in our spouse. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt. In the early days of our marriage, it was impossible to name even three faults or attributes that I did not like about hubby. I was bending over backwards in an attempt to live up to all that makes a good wife.
He too was climbing hills and sliding down steep valleys in living up to the expectations of a great husband. How easy it was to praise and appreciate him for doing even the mundane things like replacing a soggy towel in the bathroom rack with a clean and dry one.
He was quick to compliment me when I straightened out the cushions and hang up a painting. I thought that I had the best husband in the entire universe and thanked my lucky stars for aligning in my favour. He called me his queen and knelt every day in thanksgiving.
“You are the best,” he often told me. I happily agreed and told him the same thing.
THE LOG IN MY EYE
Years down the line, our respective 'contention lists' have grown astronomically. They look more like scrolls, with side notes and examples attached. During a recent marriage enrichment session for couples, the lead facilitator threw a spanner in the works.
“For your assignment this month, each person is to write down a list of attributes of themselves that rub their spouse the wrong way—those things that your spouse gripes about you—or what you think really irks your spouse.”
It seemed easy enough until I sat down to write. It is then that it occurred to me that I needed to (deeply) introspect and list down my own bad habits. I had to (grudgingly) admit that I needed to cut hubby some serious slack. As I sat through this assignment, which also required me to share with hubby for his verification, I remembered the teachings of Jesus Christ.
On two occasions, Jesus pointed out how easy it was for us to see other people’s faults but how difficult it was to see our own. When Jesus asked a judgemental, self-righteous crowd baying for the adulterous woman’s blood to first look into themselves, no one was able to cast that first stone.
On a different occasion, Jesus, in his characteristically bold and no holds barred approach, calls the people hypocrites for being so quick to judge others. There is no other relationship that best embodies this teaching of pointing out the speck in our spouses’ eyes while we carry a log in our own.
And sure enough, when we met up with the other couples, most had not done the assignment because it surprised individuals that they were to point out their own faults and not their spouse’s. They wanted the question rephrased.
After a lot of soul searching and casting aside pride, I did mine and hubby has been badgering me for a date to verify our assignments before the next couple’s meeting. I suspect the assignment was much easier for him, because I am always pointing out his (many) faults as he falters listing mine.