The workweek had ended and visions of Netflix had begun to dance in my head. That was my plan. Granted it was an unofficial plan, but it was about as planned as I like things to be.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife also had a plan. Take a day trip to check on her parents. Hum. Sounds like… I don’t know, is “torture” too strong a word? 

Didn’t she know it had been a crazy week? When do I get my much-needed break? Of course, those questions were never verbalized. Instead, I chose a silent obstinance. Which grew into the silent treatment. Then it progressed into a special kind of passive-aggressive aloofness. That’s how you make a family outing wonderful.

Welcome to marriage on eggshells. We know something’s wrong, but we are not sure what it is. We do some kind of strange uncoordinated dance. All the while trying to avoid making it worse. Until the one thing that we did not want to do becomes the only possible outcome.

Is this how relationships are supposed to be? Is there anything we could do to improve our marriage? After all, even the Bible says…

1 Corinthians 7:28 (NLT) …those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems.

Is it even possible to sweep the eggshells from our relationship? How could I clear the minefield between my spouse and me?

The good news is that it’s not rocket science. A few very practical and simple options are available to you. 

Practice Assertiveness. 

Mind reading is not a requirement for a good relationship. 

Feel free to disagree with me, but isn’t it common for us to adopt one of two weapons in our conversations with each other? Sometimes we become passive-aggressive and at other times, we are just aggressive. In the first instance, we don’t verbalize our true feelings. Instead, we attempt to “broadcast” them. Come on, you know what I mean. Why do we give the silent treatment, slam doors, or stonewall our partner? We are trying to say, “There is something wrong, but you have to figure it out.” Not that we actually say that. And of course, if you don’t figure it out, it can only be that you do not love me. If you actually cared, you could figure this out.

Whew! Doesn’t that sound like fun? It may sound like last night.

The other way we tend to deal with our frustrations is even less accommodating. That is when we become aggressive. Some naturally tend toward the aggressiveness. Others may get aggressive when they realize that passivity isn’t working. Regardless of the path we take, when we become aggressive, it is on. The fight is happening in earnest. Of course, it’s not a fight about the problem. It’s much easier to fight about not the problem. So that’s what we do.

My wife and I spent years fighting about “not the problem”. Eventually, we discovered that we had to be honest about the problems. When we were honest, our arguments were fewer and more easily resolved.

So what is assertiveness and why practice it? Assertiveness is the halfway point between aggressive and passive behavior. I will forever be grateful to Dr. Robert Glover for explaining this so well in his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Ephesians 4:25 (NLT) So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

The way I learned to become more assertive began with a simple realization. I was lying when I did not come forward with my actual thoughts on a matter. Also, if I waited until I was angry, then we fought but without any real satisfaction or resolution.

Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Now I practice clarity in our marriage. If I like a thing or do not. If I have a plan or don’t, I say so. Does that mean I always get what I want? Would that be a healthy relationship to always get what I want? I bet you know the answer to that question.

Take The Time To Be Kind.

I understand that assertiveness can be difficult. The real reason we seldom state our own ideas and feelings is that we hope to avoid the awkwardness. Well, is it working? It may at times, but it only delays the conflict until the pressure is so intense that a feud becomes inevitable.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

So here is a thought. Rather than erupt when your spouse shares unwanted information with you, try breathing first. Now the purpose of breathing is not to gather evidence for some invented jury in your mind. The breath is to remember kindness and understanding. Take a moment to consider the privilege of listening to your life partner. The one person on earth that you picked. Your person. The one you love more than anything in the world… five days out of seven.

Release the fight or flight anxiety you are feeling. Remember that you do not have to defend yourself. You are trying to understand. Then you will better comprehend or at least empathize with our spouse’s feelings.

Live As A Fully Responsible Person.

Galatians 6:5 (NLT) For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

This is a hard truth that we often resist. Our needs, success, trials, and happiness are our responsibility. A life partner can help and support you. They can celebrate or weep with you, but in the end, you are responsible for you.

No one can read your mind, even though at times it seems they can. So it is your responsibility to use actual words. So, yes, you can quickly clear the minefield in your marriage this week. You can start by simply telling your person where all the mines are.