We had one of those weeks recently in our marriage. We weren’t arguing, and nothing big or even notable happened. But it was all the little things that were adding up. Work, lack of sleep, finances, you know, all the life stuff.
Our reserves were empty, and we began to do that weird dance that sometimes happens in marriage. We danced around one another as we tried not to step on toes and the landmines lying just beneath the surface.
It was late Thursday night. I was standing in front of the kitchen sink, loading the last few dishes into the dishwasher, and I’d had it. I don’t know if it was the way he walked across the kitchen or his lingering pile of laundry stacked on top of the dresser. It could have been the fact that I had come home to a carelessly, unlocked house for the third time that week. Whatever it was, I’d had it, and I picked a fight about it standing right there in front of the kitchen sink, elbow-deep in soap suds and dirty dishes.
I knew better, but I did it anyways. It felt good for a brief second. It felt good to have legitimate reasons for my frustration, solid examples to back my argument, and know I could easily win this one.
But just as quickly as that feeling came, it evaporated. I was left to face the ugly truth of the situation. I didn’t give my husband the benefit of the doubt, and I wasn’t gracious in that moment.
It had nothing to do with being right or wrong. It had nothing to do with the legitimacy of my frustrations.
But rather than reiterating my concerns and opinions to him for the hundredth time, he needed me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
He needed me to be kind.
He needed me to be gracious.
He needed me to be understanding.
He didn’t leave the door unlocked just to see how mad he could make me. The man is a lot smarter than that! Still, I took his mistakes as a personal assault and assumed it was an attempt to irritate me.
As I stood in front of the sink, gripping the scrub brush in my hand, I opened my mouth and began to give it to him for leaving the door unlocked–once again. His physical posture changed in defense to my attack as he began to prepare what he would launch back. I stopped mid-sentence, just as I was about to get to the good stuff and really tell him how it was. Instead, I chose to say, “I bet you didn’t mean to leave the door unlocked, I need to give you the benefit of the doubt here.” He exhaled with physical relief and replied, “Thank you! I did forget again, and I’m sorry about that.”
With a simple apology, a little bit of grace, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, a crisis was averted, and we didn’t have a big knock-down, drag-out fight about locking the doors.
That’s the cool part about marriage and it’s also the hard part of refining that we go through each day. The opportunity to be kind, to be gracious, and to choose to see the good in our spouse usually comes in insignificant moments. Though small, they change and shape our marriages dramatically.
This week I’m on the lookout for the small ways that I can be quick to give my husband the benefit of the doubt. I’m watching for opportunities to practice grace because it’s by and through grace that we discover a richer and deeper love in marriage.