In 2009, Laura Munson wrote a remarkable reflection on the near dissolution of her marriage for The New York Times titled “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear.” She recounts a painful afternoon when her husband of thirty years came to her, out of the blue, to tell her that he didn’t love her anymore and wanted out of the marriage. She writes, “[My husband's] words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, ‘I don’t buy it.’ Because I didn’t.”
Instead of rising to his hurtful words and responding in kind, she surprised even herself by holding her tongue. She knew that her husband was going through a tough time in his career, feeling less than good about himself, and more than likely transferring that inadequacy onto their relationship. But it’s one thing to understand these things intellectually and another to in the moment:
You can bet I wanted to sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to. But I didn’t. I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar. And one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he fixed a door that had been broken for eight years…He mentioned needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started talking about the future. It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.” He was back.
Reactivity would have killed the marriage. But by some miracle, Munson did not give her husband what he was asking for, which was a fight and a way to scapegoat her for the pain he was feeling. Nor did she try to make him pay for the hurt he was causing. Instead, for all intents and purposes, she turned the other cheek. And it was the key to their recovery. If you’ve ever been in her situation, you know how miraculous it is that she was able to stay quiet. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such an act of mercy, you know it can move mountains.
The gospel announces that we have been.
Excerpted from One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World