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You’d think by age 37, I’d learn when to shut my mouth. I should know that sometimes silence avoids the mudslide that can occur when you have to have the last word. Instead of leaving things as-is, opening your mouth makes conflicts sticky, and often overflowing out-of-control. Instead of getting one last jab in, we all need to learn to just chill the heck out, and choose our battles—just like we do with our kids.

Last week, the hubs and I got into it. He wanted to save some money by ripping up the kitchen floor before putting new hardwoods in. “Your time is worth the money it will cost,” I warned him. “It will be more difficult than it looks.”

But he persisted and attempted the task.

It did not go well. He damaged our new cabinets while nails and staples sat exposed for our small children to step on. Freaking perfect.

He began to sweat, swear, and become visibly frustrated. He flung his hands up in the air. “I’m done,” he said wiping his forehead.

“It’s OK,” I said. “A real man knows when to throw in the towel.”

I continued to do my best to build his ego back up. He couldn’t have felt much worse after the failed attempt.

But within minutes, I messed up. My big, fat, Greek mouth—yeah, I couldn’t seal it.

“Is it too early to say it?” I asked.

“Say what?” he said.

“That I was right.”

I mean, I was right. But he knew that—that’s why he felt so horrible. I didn’t need to smear it all over his already sweaty face. The evening spiraled downward from there—as expected. I wore my hard armor, and because of my mouth, he put his back on, too. We went through all of the phases of a marital fight: the silent treatment, the passive aggressive jabs, and then the blowout.

But later that night, we finally spoke to each other like normal adults who care about each other. Yes, I said those magical words that I find myself saying all too often lately: “I’m sorry. I should have just shut my mouth and left it alone.”

“I’m sorry, too,” my husband said. “I don’t know what I was trying to prove.”

Marriage is no joke. But it’s important to remember that it is a union, not a competition. The point is to be united, not to puff out your chest and say, “I win.” The next time you know that your partner feels bad, don’t drive that knife in deeper, and then twist it. Why make the wound bleed more? Why not just hurry up and put the Band-Aid on it?

It’s nonsense if you don’t.

In marriage, we must learn to choose our battles just like we do with our strong-willed toddlers. We can’t win at everything. So, there’s no use trying. Swallowing our pride is something all partners must do in a marriage—because that’s the only way we all won’t end up killing each other.

Yes, my husband and I, we both acted like idiots—my husband through his actions and me with my big yapper. After 10 years of marriage, we’re still trying to navigate this sometimes-tricky marriage gig we’re in. We could have hopped over all of that extra arguing if I would have just let his mistake ride by shutting my mouth. Marriage is not a competition of who’s doing what better. It’s not keeping score at all. It’s learning to just let things slide—to avoid the mudslide when you can. In the end, it’s better to let the feeling of knowing you’re right sit within you, instead of dragging both you and your partner through the mud.

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Angela Anagnost-Repke

Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has been published in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, ABC News, Parents, Romper, and many more. She is currently at-work on her nonfiction parenting book, Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things. Follow Angela on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram  

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