This story could happen to anyone. It could be any day of the week and any year. It is typical and it is problematic. See if you can discover where the problem began…

One Day

Wife decides to make a really nice dinner for the family.

She makes a hearty main dish complemented with a special sauce and multiple side dishes. She takes extra time to set the table nicely.

Her husband comes home just in time for dinner.

The family gathers for dinner and the husband says, “I have some work to do before I can eat. Go ahead and start without me.”

So the family prays and starts eating, while the husband makes some phone calls in the next room.

His wife wishes that the whole family could be eating together, but she understands that man must sometimes sacrifice one good for another.

The children start to clean up dishes just as the husband comes to the table to eat.

Wife, who slaved away at the food for at least an hour, watches to see her husband’s delight as he eats the specially prepared food that’s miraculously still warm.

Husband takes a small portion of food nowhere near the size he normally would eat. It appears to wife like he doesn’t find the food appetizing.

“Did you already stop somewhere for dinner?” wife asks.

Husband replies, “no.”

“Are you on a special diet?” wife asks now with hurt and judgment boiling up inside her.

“No,” husband says again.

“Why aren’t you eating anything then?” wife wants to know. “You haven’t touched any of the side dishes, and you’re only eating a small bit.”

Husband doesn’t look up but is obviously deciding whether he should say something. “I had a big lunch at work today. It was a late lunch. I ate two huge hamburgers.”

“Oh,” says wife, but now she’s mad. Everyone knows she’s mad because she’s not saying much. Wife works cleaning the kitchen and then moves on to deeper cleaning. Finally she says to husband, “How about if you do the dishes? I’ve cooked and cleaned in here forever. I need to do some other things.”

“How about the kids do something? I don’t see them working. I have paperwork to do,” responds the husband.

“The kids have been doing work all day. They do more work around here than you realize,” wife says as anger increases. She’s starting to feel completely unappreciated.

“I can’t believe he won’t even help out after dinner,” she thinks to herself.

“You think you do so much — and you do. But we all work hard all day long too. You aren’t here to see how much we do. And now you won’t even help for a few minutes,” wife chastises.

At this point she realizes she has become the griping wife she vowed she would never be. The only thing to do is not talk. She must keep the anger from coming out in ways that she’ll regret later. Back to work. She does the dishes herself. This is her way to showing him how much trouble he’s causing and how fast it can really be done. She believes she’s teaching him a lesson.

A few minutes later husband comes to the fridge and pulls out a package of lunchmeat and eats a handful of it.

Wife almost blurts something hurtful out, but holds back. “How can he be so rude?” wife thinks to herself. “He really didn’t like his dinner. He was just making up that story about the big lunch.”

Husband is thinking, “I just need to taste something salty. Yes, this lunch meat will do the trick.” At this point he notices his interaction with his wife feels really different than it usually feels. She’s clearly edgy. “I hate it when she does this,” he thinks. “I will show her who does more around here.”

At this point, while wife starts deep cleaning the carpets that are badly soiled and in need of attention, husband starts doing laundry. He folds multiple baskets.

Wife walks in the other room where husband is folding laundry, and instead of being grateful she thinks, “Oh, sure he had paperwork. Now he’s cleaning. He’s such a neat freak.”

Wife sits down on the couch for a second and wishes that all the bad feelings would just go away somehow.

Two of the children walk into the living room arguing about whose turn it is to take out the garbage.

“Great,” wife thinks. “Now the feeling has infected the whole family. Why does this always happen?” she wonders.

Everyday Battles

Battles like this one happen in homes around the world every day. Who’s at fault?

One person could argue that the husband is at fault because he was so uncaring to his wife and the family when he came home from work.

Another could see the wife as the culprit of the argument because she chose to become offended.

How do you see it? Do you see yourself in it?

Both parties were thinking selfishly, even though they were in the process of acting selflessly. Wife was serving husband and the family by making a nice dinner. She was hoping for the spirit of love and connection to be present. And husband was serving the family by being dedicated to his work. He was trying to get things done in order to spend time with the family. He sacrifices every day to meet the needs of the family and knows sometimes this means he has to miss out on some of the important family activities, like family dinner.

Wife’s judgment, as well as her resentment of her expectations not getting met, was probably slightly more to blame than husband’s ingratitude. He just forgot something. Wife actually villainized another person.

There was a time in my married life when I used to do this all the time. I turned my husband into my enemy in my own mind oftentimes before he would even walk in the door. Then my evening was ruined.

After this happened enough I fooled myself into thinking that life was actually better when he wasn’t home. And I’m pretty sure he would say that at that time he felt he wasn’t really wanted at home.

This type of selfishness, judgment and sabotage chases away the spirit of love and ruins the potential for becoming a happy, united family.

After This, Then What?

After sabotaging my relationship for a while, I started seeing me as the problem and seeing the ripple effect of frustration I spread through my family by thinking just one mean thought about my husband.

After I recognized my problem, I made a plan to catch myself doing this and then go beg God for forgiveness for my selfishness every time I caught myself doing it.

Once my repentance habit was in place I found my heart more open to new plans. The second part of my plan was to think good thoughts whenever I hear the garage door opening, indicating my husband was home.

The final step to my plan was to be truly humble. I decided I must say I was sorry to my husband if I ever ruined the feeling in our home, and I must praise him and show him gratitude even if he didn’t. This didn’t mean that both didn’t have changes to make toward more harmony, but the person I can work with directly is myself.

Guess what? My charity and gratitude encouraged him to be gracious too, and my children were more kind and optimistic. Yes, the tone of one person, especially one parent, can and does change the tone and behavior of the whole family!

Find out how to strengthen your couple relationship on the Teaching Self-Government Implementation Course.