I love the question Emerson Eggerichs poses in his book Love and Respect – “Do you really believe your spouse got up this morning rubbing their hands together thinking: ‘How can I make my spouse’s life miserable today? How can I really hurt them today?’” Well… if you DO think this, then you probably ought to …go see the police! Otherwise, when in conflict, we must learn to pull back a bit and recall to mind I Corinthians 13: “love believes all things” (NASB) or in the Amplified version, love is “ever ready to believe the best of every person…”
A friend recently wrote the following on my Facebook: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” You may have to go over that several times before you really get it! You’ve had it happen to you – probably many times – just as I have… someone misinterpreted what you meant by what you said or how you said it. OR what they heard had some truth to it, but not near to the degree they took it!
A wife says to her husband: “you always hang out with your friends more than me!” Don’t get hung up on hearing “always” to mean “ALWAYS!” Maybe what she is really saying is: “I miss you! I really want to be around you – for you are the most important person in my life!” A husband complains to his wife about how she wants him to lead but she never agrees with his decisions. Again, don’t get hung up on hearing “never” as meaning “NEVER!” Maybe what he is really saying is: “I want to be strong for you! I want to make life easier for you…take some pressure off of you by leading and making decisions. Will you let me do that for you?”
I promise you, there is a significant degree to which each of the responses above are true! And in each case such as these, if we don’t believe for the best, we will miss the heart of the other! Being “ever ready to believe the best” of your spouse is a must for a healthy relationship. It is a mindset that requires discipline to develop. In our flesh we tend to be reactive, critical, and judgmental. As a result we miss what is really going on inside the other person. We don’t hear what is really being said. We fail to listen beneath their words or actions.
As a marriage counselor with 25 years experience, I am convinced this is one of the biggest reasons why couples struggle so in resolving conflicts. They don’t believe the best, so they react and assume they know what is happening or being said; then the other does the same, and the cycle starts all over again! We MUST believe that in our spouse’s heart of hearts they are really for us! And when we see or experience things that seem to indicate the opposite – step back so we don’t react, look beneath the surface, ask questions non-defensively, and listen to learn – even when things are revealed about you that are hard to hear. In so doing, you will move towards resolving conflicts and discover things about each other bringing about a deeper, closer, and more meaningful relationship.