on conflict, marriage, & lentils

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I thought of writing a mushy post about Matt and lentils. Not to be confused with mushy lentils. And how I sort of knew I wanted to marry him when we made this recipe together. You learn a lot about each other while standing in the kitchen and making something with your hands.

It was in the way he helped me do something I enjoy that made me fall in love.

I’ll write about love and lentils one day but I want to share about a different word today. A reader asked me to write about conflict and I’ve hesitated for a few reasons.

One being, we are newbies at marriage. Three years offers some credibility because we’ve lived through some stuff but we have so much more to learn. I recognize that fully. I continually seek counsel from friends much older than I am -- married or not.

Two being, it’s not something I'm confident in or sure of most days, it’s an area of growth and somewhere I fall short.

When we first got married, conflict looked like me stewing on something for a while, writing about it, stewing on it some more, and finally bringing it up a few weeks later when a tiny thing triggered a massive explosion. I'd then list off all the things that happened in the past week or two that hurt my feelings as well.

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I've grown up a little here. I'm still a slow processor, I still don't know quite what I'm feeling and just why I feel it right in the moment. But something I offer now are words amidst the confusion. Often I'll say, "I'm upset. Something hurts and I don't know exactly what or why but I'm going to try and figure it out. Can you be patient with me as I work through it? In the meantime, I just need you to know I'm sad."

This has helped us.

I wrestle to offer here because there’s pressure to write once you've overcome, figured it all out, and can offer a meaningful takeaway. I can’t always give that. Life isn’t so simple. I know culture encourages quick, efficient, and fast but relationships aren’t an app we wait a few seconds to download.

Relationships are beautiful, messy, and layered. They are living, breathing, and evolving. And while culture might say -- do this and you’ll get that - I just don’t believe in writing another list for you to check off and manage.

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The world is noisy. We have plenty of advice coming our way. Sometimes the best thing we can do is lay it all down, grab the hand of the one we love, and just learn to laugh again.

Because I can take myself and life way too seriously. If I’m not careful, I can live in a perpetual state of worry and fear. Sometimes, I need a good face smush from my husband -- the kind where his nose ends up in the corner of my eye. Or an itty bitty flick on the nose reminds me that my inner critic is being too noisy.

Sometimes exhaling like a beluga whale does the trick too. Better when done together.

So today, right now, I’m just going to offer one thing I’ve seen lived out that has made conflict easier to sift through. It’s made us lay our fists down a little when emotions get high. We heard this on a podcast from Village Church, it was intended for the context of race relations. I learned so much from this talk.

The idea is quite simple. You probably already do this in relationship.

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Feeling to feeling. Fact to fact.

We’ve found so many of our disagreements stem from this place. At the root of it, we want to be seen, loved, and understood, right? We hear this one a lot. I hear it so often I forget what it actually means, until I actively put it into practice and then I remember.

If Matt says, “We feel distant” and I respond with, “What do you mean? We went on a date last Tuesday.”

I’m giving him fact when he offered feeling.

If I say, “It feels like I’m the only one doing chores around here” and he says, “I just unloaded the dishwasher yesterday. I’m the one who mows the lawn..”

The exact same scenario went down.

Even if it's true we went on a date and he unloaded the dishwasher -- we’ve picked to convince rather than connect. We’ve held tight to pride -- I’m right and you're wrong. We've missed the whole point.

Guys, I'm stubborn. This one is so hard for me.

Maybe he feels distant because we’ve been extremely busy and haven’t sat down and looked each other in the eyes. Maybe I haven't offered affection or words of affirmation --- his primary love languages. And maybe, deep down, I feel overwhelmed by responsibilities and just need someone to remind me that they appreciate the work I’m doing, that I’m doing an okay job.

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While these scenarios appear quite simple, I've seen and felt how resentment can build from many tiny, seemingly insignificant things. They build and stack on top of each other, until all the weight creates cracks in the foundation. And then the whole house starts to shake.

There is always something deeper beneath the surface. Feeling to feeling and fact to fact helps me find it. It helps me get out of the way to simply listen. I'm reminded to love the person in front of me, not despite our differences but because of them.

And when we remember the complexities of humans, the baggage we carry, the experiences that mold and form us, humility seems not merely right but kind. And I want to be more kind. Not only to Matt but to every person I cross paths with.

Because we each have hurt, we all say one thing and do the opposite. Not because we're bad people but because we're trying to figure this life thing out and maybe we're a little scared of how it'll all shake out. Maybe we've been dealt a bad hand or been forgotten from broken systems. At the root of it, I want to believe we're all doing the best we can with what we've got. Some days that comes easy and other days really hard.

My role isn't to judge or place blame, it's to look inward, check my own wild, beating heart and seek to understand. It's to love deep and wide, both the man in my home and my neighbor down the street. It's choosing forgiveness, we change unhealthy habits when others believe we can and choose to walk beside us as we grow.

Marriage is a safe place for me to practice how to be a better human. I think that's what I appreciate most. Thanks for sticking by me babe. You're an absolute gift. Happy three years!

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Photography :: Lauren Gay // Location :: Springfield Manor Winery & Distillery // Dress :: Church Street Bridal