I told Anne my blog title and idea and she adamantly warned me to do some research on the origin of the phrase before using it. The look on her face reminded me of “The Princess Bride” where Vizzini keeps using the word “inconceivable.”
Inigo responds, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
My findings confirmed what I already knew about the expression while giving me a fill of historical understanding behind this lifestyle that people choose to live in.
Yes I said lifestyle…and some of you operate your marriage this way.
Wikipedia simply calls it an “equivalent retaliation.” But there’s more to it.
The phrase “Tit-for-tat” Is a blow or some other retaliation in return for an injury from another.
The words “Tit” and “tat” (thanks to Phrase Finder) are both the names of small blows which originated as “tip” and “tap”. Tip meant a hit, a shove. Tap was a retaliatory hit. These are recorded by Charles, Duke of Orleans in a book of poems that he wrote in 1466:
“Strokis grete, not tippe nor tapp.”
It’s a childhood game of “I got you last” turned into a marriage mentality. A punishment meted out to pay back an offence, measured to be equal and proportionate.
You yell at me, I yell at you.
You hurt me, I hurt you.
You cheated, I cheat on you.
You lied to me, I lie to you.
Tit for tat.
Marriages can get like that, tit for tat, tit for tat, tit for tat. The resentment and retaliations build until you feel powerless NOT to respond. The hurt builds and becomes habituated and before you know it, the lifestyle is set in concrete.
The tit for tat just is your marital banter.
Ephesians 5:21 challenges husbands and wives to submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So many times, couples stuck in the cycle of “tit for tat” and will contend that they won’t change until the other changes. Looking at it from different sides, it can sound like equity and justice. In my view, this lifestyle reveals a TRUTH:
The tit-for-tat marriage leads to an insane, mutually assured destruction.
Can the insane carousal be stopped?
Absolutely. It just takes one to do it.
For those marriages that find themselves stuck in the spinning tit-for-tat carousal, it only takes one to begin the process of forgiveness, change, and healing.
For those marriages experiencing strain and sadness…
For those marriages bowing under the weight of bad habits…
For those marriages that feel stuck in a rut of unhealthy patterns…
…healing can begin with only one of the spouse’s buying in “out of reverence for Christ.” I’m saying that your love for Jesus can motivate and empower you to decide, BY YOURSELF to shed old habits, act differently, and to refuse to return the equivalent retaliation. It starts with you. And, yes I know it takes two to make a marriage. But it only takes one to start the process of healing and change. And sometimes just getting that process started is enough to change the cycle and break the logjam in the relationship.
If being a Christ-follower means thinking of yourself less and if being a Christ-follower means turning the other cheek, then…
…certainly being a Christ-follower within your marriage means not having to be right all the time. Not having to win. Not having the last word.
Make the choice…
Don’t go for the win. Go for the love. Make the choice to forgive as Christ forgave you. Decide, today, to personally stop the cycle of insanity that is “tit-for-tat.” Chose to step into new habits of healing “out of reverence for Christ.”
Thanks for letting me ramble…