I love hearing people’s stories.
It’s amazing how when you stop and listen to someone you can, first show value to them by shutting up and listening. “Listening” is not waiting for your turn to talk. It’s showing genuine interest in knowing who the person is and what they’re trying to convey. Second, listening is (what I find) a place of comfort. It helps me feel normal as I realize that I’m not the only one to go through a variety of season in marriage/life. And usually I look to alway listen as my heart is to alway learn.
In the words of the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” Andy says,
“Get busy living or get busy dying.“
And in marriage, the only way I know to “get busy living” is to get busy learning.
So about a month ago I approached someone in our congregation because of what I heard about her husband. Oddly enough, it had to do with ketchup (and yes I have their permission to share all of this).
I was told that her husband John put ketchup on literally everything. So when I asked her about it, I discovered that this ketchup thing was an issue early for them. “Pastor, on one of our dates, he put ketchup on his steak.” She went on to describe how frustrated she was with it to the point of rationing how much ketchup he was using every day.
Then what she said was fascinating. “I found myself at a support group of other ladies and heard what other wives where struggling with. I thought to myself, ‘It’s just ketchup.’” She went on to share the revelation of what was truly going on was not necessarily a matter of conflict but a matter of preference.
“It’s just ketchup.”
How many people are creating major marital conflict over “ketchup” matters?
What I’m referring to is issues that are preferential in nature that have nothing to do with “wrong” or “right.” Usually they stem from the background and/or upbringing of the individual prior to marriage. As I so often say: Every wedding brings two sets of baggage into the marriage. It’s not a matter of “do we have baggage?” but “how will we navigate through the baggage we bring?”
I’d love to say that these are things only exclusive to “young couples.” But unattended and/or unaddressed issues of preference in ANY vintage of marriage will always have massive potential for disaster. Why? We tend to defend our preferences because they “feel” so personal. And when my preferences are attacked, I am being attacked.
But isn’t that how many marital things escalate? When something isn’t to our taste (preference), we disregard it and/or want it changed to way we “prefer.” But when the tables are turned, are insecurities rise and offense is held. Sometimes we need to step back and get a bit of perspective.
Step back and look deeper at some of the issues you’re dealing with. My guess, a number of the fights you’ve had in the past or some of the ones you currently are having stemmed/started with “ketchup-like” moments.
- Toothpaste in the sink
- Clothes around the basket instead in the basket
- Things not put away “properly” (to your liking)
- Hobbies your spouse indulges in that you don’t prefer
- You both are doing activities that sides toward your spouse’s liking
I’m not saying the “ketchup” issues are not important, but because they’ve not been navigated through properly, we’ve allowed something things that could have been dealt with at a minor level to expound to a greater proportion than necessary.
How do you get perspective with matters of preference?
Step back. This is what Jodi did. She literally listened to the negative situations of others, refused to fall into the negativity, and decided to step back into perspective. Sometimes we have so much good going for our marriage that the little things spoil our perspectives. Step back out of the frustration, see the one you love, and embrace the idea that greater good is NOT getting your way but building the marriage itself.
Stop trying to fix your spouse. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit we don’t give room for the Holy Spirit to work. It’s your job to love, pray, encourage, serve, laugh, and walk with your spouse. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to “fix” your spouse.
Lay down your ketchup bottle. Just as much as you want to see change, lead in that change. I don’t believe we should expect in our spouse what we are unable to do ourselves. Don’t demand sacrifice; be sacrificial. Instead of expecting to be served, serve first.
Communicate correctly. Just because you may have “said something” doesn’t mean you necessarily communicated correctly and/or clearly. My simplistic marital advice on communication is wrapped up with three words: Timing, Tone, and Technique. If you work all three at once, you give your marital voice clarity, power, and effectiveness.
You can be different yet still ONE. Marriage is designed to kill selfishness; it doesn’t prevent personal change. But as we submit to the Lord and to each other, our personalities are not sacrificed but are refined. And the differences we wield should complement and build our oneness, not destroy it. In the oneness in the marriage, the husband and wife do not necessarily lose their distinctiveness, we develop it. I liken it to the biblical writers who the Holy Spirit worked through while utilizing their personalities that were always submitted to the Lord. The more we open ourselves up to the Spirit of God shaping us, the better “us” we’ll discover.
Are you fighting and/or frustrated over “ketchup” issues? Have matters of preference risen to the point of massive conflict? I know I’ve been there. Perhaps it’s time to get some perspective over the real issue at hand. “Am I struggling over a real issue or is this a preferential issue?”
Many times, I realize: “It’s just ketchup.”
Thanks for letting me ramble…