A few Saturdays afternoons ago, my husband came home to a driveway full of neighborhood children playing. In order to give them as much space as possible for their basketball game, he parked right behind my big Suburban.
An hour or so later, K & I got in my car to go run an errand. Just as we were fastening our seatbelts, my husband came dashing out the back door. He clearly had something to tell me before I left. I rolled down my window and he inexplicably told me the most random thing.
As he turned to walk inside I was still looking at the back of him--pondering what had been so urgent about that particular statement. I somewhat unconsciously put the car in reverse, took my foot off the brake and gunned the accelerator.
I am still not sure which of my senses clued in first. Almost simultaneously my brain registered the sound of my back up sensor squealing, the sight of my always even-keeled husband twirling around and throwing the contents of his hands on the ground in frustration and the feeling of crashing hard into something behind me.
K, in a voice only a tweeny 9.75 year old can muster broke the deafening silence that followed: "Ummm, Mom, what just happened?"
I was so paralyzed as I tried to process, that I didn't even think to pull forward until my eyes finally met my husband's. Then placing the car in park, I jumped out to survey the damage and apologize profusely.
Is this the right time to mention that this is the first car my frugal husband has purchased for himself in 20 years? Or that it barely had 1000 miles on it? My little absent minded reverse did thousands of dollars of damage.
We sat in silence for a minute. It was an accident--an innocent mistake. It wasn't a pet or a person. It was just a car. But, I felt terrible (and grateful that I married a man with patience and restraint--which made me feel even more guilty.)
As I apologized my husband said, "I was coming out to tell you..."
Before I could even ask why he had chosen to tell me something random instead of reminding me the car was parked there, I realized the answer.
"And you changed your mind because you know how defensive I get..."
He slowly nodded yes.
See, I have an issue with pride. I have a hair trigger for feeling condescended to or treated as if I'm not smart. It has presented an issue in my marriage from time to time. My husband is really intelligent--and when I am in a phase of 'woe-is-me-housewife' (not in a good place) I hear things through the filter of "I'm telling you this because I think you are an idiot." Of course those words have never come out of my husband's mouth...it's just my junk. We all have it.
Choosing to not risk hurting my pride (or poke the bear I can be) the man I married changed his mind about reminding me...and it cost him.
A couple of days later I was recounting the story with my trainer and her husband, who is currently in graduate school to be a marriage counselor. He asked my permission to share this story with his clients as a humorous example. I agreed and then pressed further...what, exactly, is this an example of?
We agreed there were many points to dissect about the dynamic of our relationship...but that in the end, I had created an environment where it wasn't safe for my spouse to speak freely. In order to avoid the repercussions of my defensiveness, his bumper took the hit instead. And as I have continued to pray through the event, my pride has been impacted as well.
The lesson of this story is that marriage requires tough conversations some times--and while self control and kindness are invaluable--there MUST be room for truth to be spoken. If truth cannot be spoken within the sacred bonds of love, where can it be?
A damaged car is one thing, but long term these lessons serve as caution flags to avoid damaging trust, intimacy and our very hearts. And while my husband's bumper is damaged, our marriage has a permanent mark that we are committing to view as for the better. After a dozen years of marriage, this is a lesson that can serve us well.
We don't have immediate plans for repairing the dent...sometimes it is good to be reminded of the places you've crashed, so you can be a bit more cautious and pay attention in the future.