Why are stairs harder to climb after we fight? I asked myself, dragging one foot after the other, using the banister to pull myself up.
Hurtful words, spoken by my husband in anger, rotated in my mind. Was I really not humble? Was I only out for myself? Was I truly trying to "diss" him?
Reaching the top, I hesitated before entering the bedroom. Was he asleep, or waiting? Time to find out as I anxiously turned the handle.
Trying not to sigh too long or loud, I was relieved to hear his gentle snores. A simple change of clothing in the dark and I was ready to climb into bed, but our argument kept playing over and over like some bad copy of a B movie, making sleep impossible.
The nagging question, which rarely left my mind during these days of arguing, came once again. Should I leave him? Temptation was strong as I considered my options.
Finding myself praying instead of sleeping, I pleaded silently, God, what's happening to us? I don't know how much more of this fighting I can take.
A gentle suggestion came into my mind: Love never fails.
Those three words brought back memories of years before, standing at the wedding altar, saying those same words to this man. I read 1 Corinthians 13 to him after my vows. Verse 8 started with "Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13: 8, NIV). At the time my friends asked me why I wanted to read what everyone else read at their wedding. Why couldn't I be different? they questioned.
No eloquent answers came then, but now I understood. God knew I'd need those words written on my heart to remember tonight as I struggled with the "for worse" part of marriage.
I nodded in the dark. Love never fails. Not even now. I inhaled deeply and felt a sense of peace. I'd made my decision. I would continue to love my husband with God's help. I slept and awoke to another day, believing it would be different.
But at breakfast, only the forks against our plates broke the silence. I wanted to speak, to make things better, but I wasn't sure what to say. So I decided to wait and prayed silently.
Finally my husband said, "I wish we hadn't argued last night. I hate it when we argue. Are you all right?"
"I hate it when we argue too," I said as a thought entered my mind, Isn't he sorry for those awful things he said—which we both know aren't true? Then I mentally backed up. What were those words God reminded me of last night?
A flash prayer, my way of quickly lifting words up to God, came to mind: Lord, teach me how to live the words you gave me last night: Love never fails.
Finally I said, "I'm all right today. Before I fell asleep last night, God brought a Scripture to my mind. Remember our wedding vows? God reminded me of the passage I read to you from 1 Corinthians 13. It said, 'Love never fails.' So I lay in bed and prayed for us and our fighting. God helped me fall in love with you all over again last night as I remembered our wedding day." I was quiet for a moment, then I said, "And I still love you."
"We need to stop the arguing," he said. "The damage to our love and our marriage is too great." After some silence, he continued, "And I still love you." He stood and put his breakfast plate in the sink. "I'm going to get ready for work." As he walked from the room, he called back, "You can pray for that, too. Things are a pain at work right now."
"Okay, I'll pray," I told him as I headed toward the sink with my breakfast plate.
Well, not exactly an apology, but at least he hurts from the arguments like I do. I opened my Bible for quiet time before I started my work day.
"Lord," I pleaded out loud, "I've asked you to teach me how to live 'Love never fails.' Will you also teach us both how to stop arguments before they escalate?" We had tried adopting a hand gesture and the word "calm" as a signal to stop arguments from escalating. But when an argument began to escalate, the one making a point wanted to keep arguing. "What do we try next, Lord? Please give me wisdom," I prayed.
Opening my Bible, I searched the concordance for arguing and fighting. Then I turned to Proverbs 20:3 to read, "Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling."
I realized I needed to calm down before an argument escalated. Refusing to argue, but calmly discussing, might work. Once an argument gets going, it's too easy for both of us to continue, which leads to thoughts of calling it quits.
Humbled by my thoughts of leaving my marriage, I thanked God for the blessing of falling in love again. I wondered if my husband felt the same way about me. How many marriages are indeed loveless, where divorce seems a valid alternative? Even in my own life, there are times where I say things, I don't apologize, and yet I move on, trying to cope from day to day.
At least we were both trying in our own way. I prayed that we'd never get to the point where we were no longer trying. I asked God for help so I'd always be willing to climb the stairs to be with my husband—no matter how difficult those stairs seemed.
Later that afternoon, while I was at work, a colorful bouquet of flowers was delivered. The card said, "You're right. Love never fails. I love you!" As I arranged them, I knew we were both working toward a happy ending.
Suddenly a new thought struck me: Wait! Is this his way of apologizing? Have I missed something all these years? I remembered our fathers. His would fix something in the house or mow the yard, something my mother-in-law wanted done. My father brought home flowers after a bad argument. I once heard my mom tease my father by saying, "Should I start an argument so you'll bring me flowers?"
How do I apologize for my own words? I pondered that until I got home, then realized the groceries I'd just purchased, arranged on the kitchen counter, said it loudly: his favorite meal. Steaks seasoned and ready to cook, potatoes baking in the oven.
Our messages to each other were obvious when I looked for them. I had expected him to verbally say, "I'm sorry." Instead, he had given me flowers with a card validating my tryst with God the night before. In return, I had prepared a nice dinner for him. I had never considered that an apology could be expressed without words. Yet over the years of our marriage, he'd made my heart sing with flowers.
How many years had it taken me to figure this out? Too many, I realized. "Lord," I prayed, "please help me understand non-verbal apologies and give them in return. And please fill my heart with forgiveness so I keep my own part of our arguments from escalating."
My thoughts during dinner were not formed enough to share, but his raving over the steak and potatoes made me feel he'd accepted my apology for my part of our argument. Later that night I journaled my thoughts to recount my new insights.
We'd argue again, but I felt my mind open to a new level of understanding "love never fails." I believed we would succeed. Arguments might harm our marriage, but apologies, even when unspoken, would heal and preserve it.
Jan Lazo-Davis is a freelance writer from Leawood, Kansas. She and her husband, Dan, have been married 32 years.