"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." ~Proverbs 17:14
I'd spent the entire evening getting the apartment in order. With the 5 year old at her grandparents' for the night and the 2 year old sleeping, I had a moment of peace and took advantage of it. I started in the front corner of the living room and made a grid in my mind. Slowly, I'd clean one section of the grid and put away whatever went in that area and moved on to the next until the living room was a sanctuary where I felt relaxed. I then moved on to the dining/play room and did the same thing. Even my husband's "office" was cleaner than it's been in years. The process continued, room by room until all of the public areas of our home were company ready.
The next day, I made lunch for the three of us who were home and took great care to pick up everything as I went. It may sound like a given step to preparing a meal, it hasn't been part of my routine lately and I'm trying desperately to keep cleaning as I go to avoid living in a pit of despair again. When lunch was served, the kitchen looked just as it had when I entered, with the exception of the pot of stroganoff on the stove. After my husband made his plate, I went into the kitchen to find the spoon, covered in sauce, on the counter and an empty sour cream container sitting on my formerly spotless counter.
Many times in the past, this would have led to either a passive-aggressive comment or a flat out criticism of his lack of respect for the work I had accomplished. Then, it would have turned into me pointing out every little thing that wasn't in its place. From there, we would wind up getting into every little annoyance we'd had with each other for who knows how long. At the end, we'd be upset with one another and the sour cream container would still be sitting out.
Not this time. I calmly gathered the garbage from the counter and placed it in the nearby garbage can, put the spoon in the sink and wiped up the mess. Later, when I had gotten over the negative feelings I had had towards him, I simply mentioned it to him. At that point, I was able to bring it up in a way that wasn't seen as nagging or belittling. To be honest, it felt good. We talked for a moment and then both went back to what we were doing without getting into a fight.
How easy is it to let the little things bother you? Have you ever opened the flood gates just because you were upset in the moment? What would the outcome have been if you had regained control of your own feelings before trying to talk about it?
The next time you feel you're going to start a fight, simply walk away until you feel you can talk without attacking. The goal isn't to bottle everything up, it's to work together to effectively communicate.