Me: Do you mind if I pick out a new duvet cover for our bed?
Daryl: Nope! Go ahead.
YOU GUYS. That probably seems like a pretty normal conversation, but it was a straight up mini-miracle in our house. Not because one of us is a spender and one a saver (though that’s totally true). Nor because we can now order things from the interwebs rather than actually trekking out to a store (though that is pretty fantastic).
It was a mini-miracle because that simple conversation was the result of over a dozen years of hard relationship work. It was the result of hours with wise pastoral counselors, seasons of swallowing our pride, and years of learning that a marriage is not just a honeymoon.
All that over a blanket? Yep.
In our 12+ years of marriage Daryl and I have gotten along swimmingly on vocational questions and theological issues, holiday plans and in-law troubleshooting, schedule wrangling and kid rearing. There is shalom in our home more often than not. We don’t agree on everything, but we come to compromise easily nearly all the time.
Home furnishings have always been our marital Kryptonite. I’d willingly donate a kidney to Daryl if he needed one, but I didn’t want to budge on the type of bed frame I desired for our first home. He’d run into a burning building to save me, but he kept deriding my choice of paint colors.
“I’m glad that shade of green makes you happy,” he said when I chose bold asparagus for my home office, “but it might actually give me a seizure.”
Nearly thirteen years ago, as we walked around Bed, Bath, and Beyond with one of those scanner thingies to register for our upcoming wedding, what should have been a starry-eyed journey into our hopes for the future (“Think of all the smoothies we will make for each other with this blender!”) turned into a multi-hour hike through the rugged country of Who on Earth Would EVER Buy This Hideous, Sad, Drab, Tan Shower Curtain? Oh Wait, My Fiancé Would.
After our honeymoon we slept on a mattress on the floor of our tiny apartment for months because every time we drove to Ikea to choose a bed frame, we left sans purchase and didn’t speak to each other the whole way home.
“How’s married life?” my single friends would ask me longingly, and I’d try my best to smile through tightly pressed lips.
“Oh, it’s great! I mean, it’s an adjustment, don’t get me wrong, but it’s super great! Really! Ha ha! Why do you ask?”
We eventually hashed out our individual and collective unreasonableness in front of two kind, infinitely patient pastors who didn’t give us easy answers but instead turned us toward Jesus and toward each other, and asked us to think about what was really underneath the simmering conflicts.
“It’s just a mirror,” I said.
“No,” said Pastor Karen. “Not to Daryl it isn’t.”
There was a lot to excavate underneath our home decor bickering. Issues of aesthetics and fun, of ease and of quality. Below those were issues of control, of love, of trust. We had to talk about how things were done in the families we’d grown up in, how things that were lighthearted for one of us were deadly serious for the other, how a sofa really could have the power to bring grace or shame, healing or hospitality.
I had to learn to say what I needed and not expect him to already know. He had to learn to sometimes value ease over perfection. We both had to learn to die to ourselves, not just in the major things but in the minors.
“In sickness and in health,” our wedding vows should have read, “and no matter what floor lamp the other person brings home from Target.”
Fast forward to today when Daryl and I hash out disagreements more often than we used to, but with far less heat.
“It bugged me when you did that,” I’ll say. “It made me feel unloved.”
“This is really important to me,” he’ll say. “When you didn’t stop and listen, I felt unseen.”
And then we apologize, we look into each other’s eyes, we listen. Sometimes reconciliation is almost instant, other times it takes a bit of yard work for him or dishwashing for me before we can spend the emotion and come back to the disagreement with fresh eyes. What would once have had me crying in the aisle at Walmart now takes us half a minute or, when it’s a more serious conflict, half an hour.
We live to fight–and love–another day.
Progress. Blessed, blessed progress.
It’s why, after waking up one morning to discover our ancient duvet cover had finally disintegrated to the point of no return, I went to Daryl with a simple proposal: Did he mind if I pick out a new duvet cover for our bed?
Daryl: Nope! Go ahead.
Sometimes God parts the sea or raises the dead. And sometimes God parts hardened, stubborn spousal hearts, teaching one to ask for what’s needed without delay, the other to give it without qualification and with great love.