Written by Aaron & April Jacob
We posted a quote recently that taught a very simple truth.
It claimed to purport the answer to the question of how to stay married no matter what. The solution?
1. Stay married.
2. No matter what.
Okay, not so simple you say? Or is it?
Love is a choice.
We recently attended a marriage class where the speaker said that she knew a woman who decided - after thinking about leaving her spouse - to stay. To make her decision once and for all, and to not have leaving be an option anymore.
With that determination, her decision was made, and she wasn't turning back.
We love that story.
Each of us made a similar decision when we got married. Take a minute and think back to that day and how determined you were to keep a commitment you had no clue would test and try you in ways you couldn't even imagine.
Each of us decided to stick together, to stay with our spouse, no matter what.**
Well, how are you doing on that commitment of yours?
What can you do differently?
What changes might you need to make?
Imagine, for instance, that you and your spouse have just had a disagreement late at night. Your feelings were hurt and there was no way you wanted to sleep next to your seemingly "thoughtless" spouse.
In your head you wanted to run. You were out of there. Done. You wanted to go sleep in the other room.
But a little voice in your head told you not to run.
To just stay.
And to stay in bed, right next to the spouse who had hurt your feelings.
Or a simply a choice?
Is that what staying together looks like?
Is this what happily ever afters are made of?
Now, staying doesn't mean you have to stay up all night and work through the conflict. It simply means that you are choosing not to make the current issue a bigger problem than it is. You are choosing to cut the drama, to let the heat of the moment die down, and to simply stay put in the process.
Why You Shouldn't Run
We all have moments when we want to run. Whether we want to run out of the room, or out of the house, we just need out.
The reasons why we do this vary from person to person but often it can be boiled down to one or two simple reasons.
Reason #1 - I'm hurt and I can't handle this, I need out.
This reason is pretty legit because we all need breaks and time outs from time to time. However, running away isn't the best option available.
Reason #2 - The only way I know to let my spouse know how hurt I am is to run away and shut down.
Does this sound like Reasons #1? It's because it is pretty much the same thing, just worded differently, and adding the part about letting your spouse know you are overwhelmed.
We usually run away when we are flooded with emotions that we don't know how to handle.
However, running away still isn't the best option available.
Calm down? Yes. Take a break? Yes. But run away? Nope.
In fact, running is simply a negative pattern of dealing with conflict - a pattern you don't want to continue if you want your marriage to last.
Because in almost every situation, running away never helps. In fact, in exacerbates the problem, invites drama into the marriage relationship, and makes things far worse and "bigger" than they really should be.
So, what should do you instead of run?
READ: MARRIAGE IS THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER DONE
If You Are a Runner
Our advice here is simple -
Choose to not run away, but to take responsibility and to face your problems head on.
This means that the next time you are tempted to run into the other room, or to run downstairs, or to run to Dairy Queen - "Stop it," and simply choose to stay with your spouse.
You can make that choice.
You really can.
Will you make it?
Just make the choice to NOT leave. No matter how frustrated, angry, irritated, annoyed, or upset you are, just choose to stay.
READ: CONFLICT IS A NORMAL AND NATURAL PART OF YOUR HAPPILY EVER AFTER
It's really that easy.
Well, almost that easy. Once you decide to stop the "running behavior" that may be harming your relationship, you need to be able to replace it with a more positive way to handle conflict.
Just remember, NOT running away is a good place to start.
You also may need some coaching on how to handle - and not run from - tough or painful emotions. (Read about how Ashlynn & Coby use "The Emotion Wheel" here.)
It's okay to just feel.
Now a Few Words if Your Spouse is a Runner
If your spouse is a runner, please note that it isn't your responsibility to chase your spouse, or try to fix everything (However, that may be the very thing your spouse wants - to be chased and held and hugged and protected.)
If, during conflict, you are able to stay in a calmer place emotionally, where you can see more clearly, then please do what you can to help your spouse calm down!
This doesn't mean that you should feel manipulated by your spouse to try and make things better, or that it is your job to give them all the attention in the world when they choose to run, but there are a few things you can do to help!
1. Don't let them go. Be humble enough to ask them to stay. Not in a controlling way, or a "Pleeease don't leave me," begging kind of way, but in an I love-you-let's-keep-the-drama-down kind of way. Something as simple as "Please don't sleep in the other room, I'm sorry for what I said," can go a long way towards helping you both feel reconnected and ready to apologize.
2. If they do run, text him/her and apologize. Ask them to come back and work through things. And if they really ran - and left the house - tell them to bring you a milkshake back (Humor is always a good idea in marriage!).
3. Calling your spouse on the phone is also a good idea. The runner will probably ignore your calls, but inwardly he/she will appreciate that you called.
4. When they return to your presence/room/home, offer a hug, forgiveness, an apology, and a simple way for them to feel safe and loved. Even if you feel this is all their fault, you can choose to do your part to stay together no matter what, too!
5. Talk about how running hurts you and hurts him/her and commit to finding better solutions and developing the skills necessary to positively handle the conflict in your marriage better next time. Marriage counseling or coaching is always a great idea if you find the right approach and the right counselor/coach.
In summary, running away escalates any marital conflict and choosing not to run quickly de-escalates any marital conflict.
Like we said before, this isn't an end-all cure-all answer for runners or those who are married to runners. We all have our own ways of dealing with conflict and we all have part "runner" in us (Think about how often you "run away" from your problems with different strategies - taking a bath, spending money, watching a show - or six, taking a nap, eating junk food, etc) that we need to work at overcoming.
READ: SIX WAYS TO CONNECT AFTER A LONG DAY
So the next time conflict rears its ugly head in your marriage, make #onesmallchange and simply choose to stop running and to start staying. Then you can avoid "bigger" conflict, begin the process of reconciliation, and arrive at joy a lot more quickly than you could if you ran.
That one simple change may be just the start you need to begin nurturing your marriage in very real and practical ways this week.
Yes, choosing to stay when you want to run is what "staying together" and "happily ever afters" look like. You see, choosing to stay means that you are also ready to make other choices and changes that will nurture your marriage today and in the future. And those simple changes will make all the difference in creating the marriage of your dreams.
~ Aaron & April
**We're not saying there aren't times when divorce is the only acceptable and realistic answer.
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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