My Big, Loud, Dreamy Marriage

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J_Osheta

The first two years of my marriage were loud.

Reverberating slams. Stomping away. Disgusted voices. Angry silences.

More than once, I wondered if my dad was right. Did I marry too soon? Did I marry the wrong person? Did I make a horrible, horrible mistake?

In the sweet moments, the quiet cuddling moments, we’d apologize for our hot tempers and make promises and offer reminders that we knew our marriage would be hard. Neither one of us had a shining example of a healthy, much less Christian, marriage so we were going on faith and encouragement from mentors plus five step plans from whatever hot Christian marriage book was out. We were also an interracial couple so we knew we’d have unique conflicts and complications, but we were also set on re-writing the stories about race and gender in our marriage.

When we were at our best, we’d resolve to think the best of each other. Then we’d kiss and hold each other close marveling at the depth of our love that warred with the fierceness of our desire to be right.

Those moments were just that–moments–because too soon after those impassioned promises, one of us would say something which the other would then take the wrong way and we’d spin out all loud, disgusted, angry and distant.

“I think we need counseling.”

I said it into the dark one night after a particularly loud argument–one in which I broke a coffee mug when slamming it, for emphasis, into the sink in order to better communicate that my husband was wrong and I, of course, was right. I think he wasn’t listening to me or was being insensitive or forgot to get diapers for our toddler. I don’t remember. But I do remember the shards of glass from my favorite mug, broken and irreparable.

I wondered if it was a foreshadowing of my marriage.

Like my shattered mug, he was once my favorite. Our friendship was invaluable to me but now I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. Our relationship felt broken into pieces. Irreparable. Waiting to be tossed out.

My husband sighed and threw his hands above his head. After a pregnant silence full of all the things he wanted to say and full of resignation that saying them wouldn’t make the situation better, he finally agreed. “I’ll ask Kevin tomorrow if we can come over to talk.”

As promised, he asked his boss, a non-profit director and former psychologist, if he would spend a couple of hours with us in counseling. Kevin agreed and asked us to come over the very next morning.

Kevin approached us with a tray of coffee and books. Settling in, he doctored his cup and leaned back in his chair to study us.

“TC. Osheta,” he began. “I knew during our pre-marital counseling that we’d be here.”

My husband and I gave each other surprised glances and looked back at Kevin.

“Tell me exactly what happened yesterday that brought you here.”

So we launched into our versions, trying not to interrupt each other.

Kevin poured himself another coffee then offered his assessment.

“So, it sounds like TC had an idea and when TC told you the idea, Osheta, instead of hearing him dreaming, you heard him committing to the plan. And TC, when you were excited about your idea you wanted your wife to be excited, too. Instead, she came off as unsupportive and argumentative when she listed all the reasons why your plan was impractical.

“What if we tried on a communication technique for moments like these. TC and Osheta, you’re both very passionate, very opinionated and very big dreamers. Sometimes, when big dreamers marry each other, they have a hard time dreaming together.

“What I’d love to see is you two learning to dream together and see each other as partners and not adversaries.

“Your homework for the next month is this: before you verbalize an idea or even a thought, I want you to say, ‘Honey, I need to verbally process this idea,’ or ‘Hey, I’m just dreaming out loud about X. What do you think?’

By starting your conversation with an invitation to dream together or think about a problem as a team, neither one of you will feel on the spot to make a decision.”

So we took his advice. For the next month, any time either one of us had an idea–from things as small as chore distribution to big plans for how best to spend the educational grant my husband would get at the end of his Americorps term–we’d start with, “I’m just dreaming out loud” or “Babe, think about the budget with me” or “Hey, let’s dream about ministry here in New Orleans.”

And our marriage transformed.

We were still loud but, a different loud. A happy loud. Overlapping chatter. Belly laughs. Kisses before bed, loud.

A month later, we sat around Kevin’s pool again. This time, our chairs were a little closer and there was a knowing smile on his face.

“So, tell me how our little experiment went.”

I looked at my husband and smiled. “You were so right. We needed to get on each other’s team and learn to talk better. Your technique worked! I can’t believe it.”

My husband nodded and squeezed my hand. “Beginning with a disclaimer gave us the ability to hear the best from each other and have fun dreaming together. I really need my wife to be for me and inviting her to dream with me was the perfect way to help us get back on track.”

Kevin nodded and raised his glass. “Well, we should meet a few more times, but I’m happy to hear you’re progressing. Sometimes, you just need permission to love each other well. Sometimes, the expectation for conflict is strong. As Christians, we need to be subversive and resolve to love well, think the best, and never, never give up.”

My husband interlocked his white fingers with my brown, squeezed them a little, and whispered, “Amen.” He looked up at me.

“Amen,” I said and squeezed his hand back.

______________

Image credit: dusk-photography

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Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore is an Anabaptist-y, stay-at-home mom right in the thick of moving her family from Boston to Los Angeles . She's passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking, and community development in the urban core. At the top of her bucket list is dance in a flash mob—all the better if it's to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or Pharrell's "Happy." Catch up with Osheta on her blog, Shalom in the City.
Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore

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Osheta Moore
  • Bev Murrill

    Awesome, Osheta and TC. Having been married almost 44 years, I TOTALLY know the slammed doors and the loud voices…. and the wondering whether this was the right choice … but here we still are and we have grown together in astonishing ways. Clasped hands. Warm kisses. Emmanuel.

    • Love this so much! Gives me hope and reassures me that loud is a normal part of marriage!

  • Learning strategies for becoming one in the every day. Learning how to say what’s in your heart without causing injury with words. This is how we show that we are “heirs together of the grace of life.” What a gift your words are today.

  • pastordt

    Oh yeah, I know this kind of loud. 🙂 And usually about the same kinds of issues. My husband processes out loud and I am STILL LEARNING after nearly 50 years not to take every word he utters as his final opinion on anything. Sigh. Good for you and for your excellent counselor for helping you find a way through the morass much earlier than we ever did.

    • Gayl Wright

      Diana, I hear you. We both make the mistake of assuming the other has made a decision when we’re just thinking “out loud.” We’re getting better at it, though, so it’s never too late, right???

    • I’m so glad we learned that communication technique early on, it hasn’t been smooth sailing ever since, but it’s helped us access grace for one another.

  • Ashley

    This resonates with me so much, only I’m the dreamer while my husband is struggling through the process of allowing himself to dream. I’ve found myself in the midst of loud moments due to the misunderstanding that comes from the dreamer dreaming up big crazy ideas versus the realist seeing the obstacles. It’s a process, and with only five years of marriage under our belts, we’re still learning to communicate. I’m glad we’re not alone.

    • Ashley, you are NOT ALONE! I think that’s what every married couple needs to hear, that they’re not the only ones with fifty shades of cray in their marriage. That things get loud- for better or for worse, and there’s hope for peace and unity in your marriage. I’m praying for you and your husband today. I hope you don’t let that dreamer in you get pushed to the side for the sake of peace, I hope you and your husband find your communication groove and that the Lord puts mentors in your help to support you as you learn how to dream together.

  • Gayl Wright

    ““So, it sounds like TC had an idea and when TC told you the idea, Osheta, instead of hearing him dreaming, you heard him committing to the plan. And TC, when you were excited about your idea you wanted your wife to be excited, too. Instead, she came off as unsupportive and argumentative when she listed all the reasons why your plan was impractical.” This sounds all to familiar. It happens to us almost the same way and we’ve been married 41 years. I love the idea of prefacing sharing our thoughts with an invitation to dream together. That takes away the pressure of feeling like either of us have to make a decision right now and enables us to calmly discuss things. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Osheta!

    • Oh, Gayl! It’s the pressure that causes all the conflict. Once that was removed, or at least, lighten things got so much easier for us. We still have out moments, but we resolve them quickly because we can identify what’s really going on.

  • I love this, Osheta! And I can definitely relate to two people with big ideas, all the words, and a fierce hope to support each other even if it doesn’t always seem like it. 😉 This is great advice, and such an encouraging marriage story. Keep writing! 🙂

    • Thank you, Sarah! I think that’s the tricky part- when I was being “practical” I thought I was supporting my husband. Knowing what makes him tick and his need to verbally process has helped me be a better teammate to my husband. And that’s where all the fun happens because we can play, and use our imaginations, and explore new possibilities– together.

  • O, so good! What great advice. I teared up a bit, because I think Scott and I need this permission as well. To just be able to dream out loud, without necessarily committing to the plan already.

    • YES, that was key for us. My husband needed to have a safe space to dream and I needed to be reassured that dreaming doesn’t mean planning. I think our souls need dreams like our bodies need water, so making room for that has been transformative in my marriage.

  • Maggie H Johnson

    Oh. My. Word. This is where we are RIGHT NOW. All of it – the dreaming together issue and not hearing each other well. Thank you for writing this. Perfect timing.

    • Oh, Maggie! I’m praying for your marriage today and asking Jesus to fill you both with peace, love, and deep admiration for each other. I’m hoping you’ll have eyes to see the best in your husband and ears that listen to his heart. I’m excited for you to get to the fun of dreaming and freedom of bringing your whole self to your marriage. Keep in touch, please!

  • Cherish Grant-Dixon

    So Beautiful! I loved it!

    • Thank you, Cherish! We miss y’all at Rescued!

  • Natalie Hart

    It’s ridiculous how easy it is to *not* be on the same team, to be competing for “who has it tougher” or whatever else. Just that idea, “we’re on the same team,” has been revolutionary for my marriage — I’m glad it took you less time than it took my husband and I.

    • Oh my goodness, so true! I actually have to tell myself, “we’re on the same team. My husband is not against me” whenever I feel my temperature rise. What is it about marriage that makes me so defensive? I’m not sure.

  • Oh, man. My marriage was loud just the other night for some of these reasons. Good lessons in here, well told.