By Ashley Willis
When you read the phrase “4-letter word” in this title, you probably thought I was referring to the “f-word.” And, I am. But, it’s NOT the one you think.
Let me share a story with you first.
When my husband, Dave, and I moved to Florida, our stress level was at an all time high. Dave was adjusting to his new role as a head pastor, and we decided to take on a fixer upper upon moving. Not to mention, we were also raising our two eldest boys who were only two and four at the time. Things were CRAZY to say the least.
Dave was busy with all of his leadership duties, and I was desperately trying to manage contractors at the house and doing a lot of the work myself. I took pride in it. But, somewhere along the way, I grew bitter.
I was resentful of the fact that I was stuck at home all day trying to keep the kids happy while completing my various DIY projects. My priorities were completely messed up, and I missed my friends and family terribly.
But, I made a HUGE mistake in all of this. I decided to internalize my pain and frustration and immersed myself into the housework and raising our boys. But, the problem with internalization of feelings is they HAVE to come out eventually. They don’t just magically go away.
Read, “The Most Common Mistake Women Make in Marriage,” for more on this.
I was like a volcano about to erupt, and one day, I did just that.
I was putting up a curtain rod in our front room which had a pretty high ceiling. Dave had asked me if I needed any help that morning, and I said,”No”—even though I was desperate for help. He accepted my “No” and decided to go on a run.
I was furious, and I became consumed with negative thoughts toward Dave.
“A run! How nice to be able to take a break and go on a run while your wife slaves away on this house!”
“How dare he leave this house without picking up a screwdriver and doing some work! Sheesh!” and
“What’s wrong with him. Can’t he see that my “No” isn’t really a “No”? I mean I can totally do this on my own, but a little help would be nice.”
Yeah. Not my finest hour.
I stewed and stewed during his 30-minute run. And, then he came home.
He asked how I was doing, as he wiped the sweat off of his forehead. I could tell that he was feeling all those amazing endorphins releasing after a good run. Bless his heart; he had no idea what was coming.
I told him I was FINE and proceeded to stomp up and down the ladder while fooling around with the rod and screws obnoxiously.
The word “fine” might as well have been the notorious “f-word.” Honestly, in that moment, my tone and body language was screaming obscenity and disgust.
Dave looked pretty stunned, but I could tell he was confused. I said I was “fine,” but I didn’t LOOK like I was fine at all.
He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to offend me by assuming that I am incapable of doing the task at hand, but he could also tell that I was about to lose it and probably needed his help.
So, he did the only thing he thought was appropriate in that moment. He asked me again.
He said, “Sweetie, are you sure you’re fine?” Oh, boy. There’s that word again.
This is where I lost it. I turned my head around toward him kind of like the girl in The Exorcist. Then, I took a deep breath and said the nicest thing that I could muster up at that moment.
I said, “I! Can’t! Even! Look at you! Right now!”
I meant every word of it at the time. I was mad and hurt. Why hadn’t he been more helpful? Couldn’t he tell how angry I was by my body language? Doesn’t he know that “fine” is never really fine?
We stood there a few minutes just staring at each other. Then, Dave walked over to me, grabbed my hands and said, “You’ve been telling me that you are ‘fine’ the whole time we’ve been redoing this house. So, Sweetie, I honestly thought you were fine. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been more helpful. I want to help you however I can.”
We embraced and continued to talk about what was really on my mind and heart and what he’s been experiencing at work. That’s exactly what we should have been doing all along. TALK.
We aren’t mind-readers! We must verbalize what’s on our mind and heart. I learned this the hard way.
I apologized to Dave for being a raving lunatic in that moment and for relying to heavily on my body language and tone instead of words—except when it came to that one 4-letter word, “Fine.”
I used that simple word as a crutch during those few months. I didn’t mean it when I said it. I said it because I didn’t want to talk. That’s the kind of word that “fine” often is when it comes up in conversation. We might as well replace it with, “I don’t want to talk about it!” or “Go away!” And, those phrases are dangerous when it comes to our marriage.
I’m happy to say that Dave and I both forgave one another that day, and God used my frustration and crazy outburst to open our eyes to some cracks in our communication habits. In an effort to keep an open line of communication between us, we rarely use “Fine” as a response.
Please don’t get me wrong here—I don’t think “fine” is a bad word. I just think that it’s a word that give us a temporary, easy way out that essentially causes a breakdown in communication when we do it over and over again. Sadly, this is the case for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Dear Reader, do you and your spouse often tell each other things are “fine” when they’re not?
Do you respond with “fine” to one another in an effort to end a conversation?
Do you use “fine” to avoid talking about tough issues?
If you answered yes to any of these, then I challenge you to take “fine” out of your vocabulary when you are responding to your spouse. This simple act just might save your marriage by opening up the lines of communication between the two of you once again.
Also, be sure to get your copy of my husband’s best-selling book, The Seven Laws of Love, by clicking here.
About the Author: Ashley Willis is a wife and mom of four boys who together with her pastor husband, Dave, founded StrongerMarriages.org and the “Marriage” app as a way to encourage couples to build stronger marriage. You can follow Ashley’s blog on Patheos where she encourages women in faith, marriage and motherhood.