The Canoe: A Hard Lesson on Communication in Marriage
When We Focus on What ISN’T Instead of What IS
Do you have a hard time focusing on what IS rather than what ISN’T? Yah, me, too.
I never want to be the example of “what not to do.”
Unfortunately, in the story I am about to tell you, I am the clear example of what not to do. (not-so-brilliant marriage communication coming your way)
The day before Mother’s Day, my husband asked if we could all run a quick errand together. In the way he asked, I could tell it was some sort of a surprise and probably had something to do with a Mother’s day gift. But I didn’t ask questions because I love surprises!
So, we got in my car with our son and drove a short distance to a friends house. It was there in the driveway that my husband told me we were picking up the friends canoe to use on the lake the following the day.
We love being on the water in a boat of some sort. We do not have a boat—or any flotation device, for that matter. Recently, we have been discussing getting either a canoe or kayaks in order to spend more time on the lake that is only minutes from our home.
So, to borrow a friends canoe in order to not only try it out, but also have a wonderful family activity for Mother’s Day afternoon makes perfect sense! Bravo, husband of mine! This is a wonderful plan and extremely thoughtful.
Back to the driveway…
A couple details cause this story to be less cut and dry than you may have imagined.
- I have a broken foot that is in the final stages of healing. I only recently came out of a walking boot.
- our friends yard is quite hilly, so the canoe is stored at the bottom of the hill and the driveway is at the top.
- the canoe is quite large and filled with leaves, bugs and mud from being stored all winter. To top it off, two days earlier, I had gotten my car washed, choosing to splurge on the extreme-super-fantastic-almighty-shine wash.
My foot started throbbing only a few steps in as we awkwardly carried the canoe up the hill, while our son played light saber with the oars.
I tried to keep my cool, but I was not thrilled.
I loved the idea of the canoe outing, but I pouted through the steps we were taking to make it happen.
We finally made it to the driveway, managed to secure the canoe to the top of my car, while dirt and leaves rained out of the canoe onto my super-duper shiny finish. I didn’t lose it, but I wasn’t especially kind either.
We made it home with the canoe still attached to the car and moved on with our day, even laughing a bit at what had just occurred. (Generally speaking, our marriage communication tools were used well thus far)
If that had been it, and if I had apologized for my childish pouting, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.
But there’s more…
That evening, we had several friends and their kids over for a bonfire. As we all lounged by the fire and the kids ran around in the woods, I was asked how our day was. My husband looked at me and said “Go ahead, tell them.”
So I did.
Oh boy, did I tell them.
Not only did I share the facts of the day, but I also shared some of the thoughts that were in my head as I experienced it.
Even as I heard the words come out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back in and swallow them away.
In the retelling of the story, I was not lifting my husband up. I was tearing him down. And I was doing this in front of our friends.
I was breaking one of our most valued rules: Don’t criticize or put down your spouse, especially in front of other people.
In an effort to “tell a funny story,” I was reducing the thoughtful effort my husband put into the surprise for me.
I was focusing on what he DIDN’T do rather than focus on all the amazing things he DID do.
It wasn’t until the story all came rolling out of my mouth did I realize what I had done. The shame of that truth crushed me. (This was a clear example of how not to communicate in marriage)
My husband had created a wonderful plan for my special day, and I had focused only on the truly minor inconveniences of it.
Did I think he intentionally planned to cause pain in my foot or ruin the super-duper-fantastic shine on my car? He didn’t know what the canoe looked like, how much it weighed and where it was stored! He simply had gone to the extreme effort to plan an activity he knew I would love to celebrate Mothers Day. The other details were out of his control.
So, friends who were there the night I told this story, I am sorry that you were witness to a “do as I say, not as I do” moment for this marriage ministry leader. I am so grateful that we surround ourselves with godly friends who forgive, admonish, and restore us.
To my husband, forgive me, babe.
I know how much effort was put into this surprise, and I want you to know how much I truly appreciate it.
For those of you who have made it to this part of my story, please hear me when I say that your words and who you share them with are important.
Guard your heart.
Guard your tongue.
Lift up your spouse. Don’t tear them down.
And when they choose to celebrate you in ANY WAY, be grateful.
PS. Our canoe trip on Mothers Day was perfect. I loved it! (and we will be buying an ultralite canoe!)
1 Thessalonians 5:11, Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 18:21, Proverbs 13:3