We had one of those weeks recently in our marriage. We weren't constantly arguing, nothing really 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 nearing empty and we began to do that weird dance that sometimes happens in marriage. You dance around one another, trying not to step on toes, trying not to step on the landmines you know are lying just beneath the surface.
It was late Thursday night and I was standing in front of the kitchen sink, loading the last few dishes into the dishwasher, and I had had it. I don't know if it was the way he walked across the kitchen, his pile of laundry that had been stacked on top of the dresser for days now, or that fact that it was the third time that week that I had come home to an empty house that he had left unlocked while we were both gone (this has been our most recent source of conflict in our marriage!). Whatever it was, I'd had it so I picked a fight about it standing right there in front of the kitchen sink that night, elbow deep in soap suds and dirty dishes.
I knew better but I did it anyways. It felt good for the tiniest second, it felt good to have legitimate reasons to be frustrated, to have solid examples to back it up with and to know that I would be right, that 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 couldn't give my husband the benefit of the doubt and I couldn't be the tiniest bit gracious in that moment.
It had nothing to do with being right or wrong. It had nothing to do with my frustrations not being legitimate that he had left the house unlocked yet again.
But rather than reiterating to him for the hundredth time why he needs to remember to lock our doors and how I don't think its wise or safe to leave out house unlocked while we are gone, 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 boy is a lot smarter then that!) but sometimes I take his mistakes and forgetfulness as a personal assault and believe that it's an attempt just to irritate me.
So as I stood in front of the sink, gripping the scrub brush in my hand, I opened my mouth as I began to give it to him for leaving the door unlocked once again. His physical posture changed in a 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, and said '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 said 'Thank you! I really 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 opportunities we have to be kind, to be gracious, and to give our spouses the benefit of the doubt usually come in the smallest ways. Though small, they change us and shape our marriages dramatically.
So this week I'm on the look out for the small ways that I can be quick to give my husband the benefit of the doubt. I'm watching for the opportunities I'll have to practice grace because its by and through grace, I'm convinced, we discover a richer and deeper love in our marriages.