We had only been married several weeks before the big one hit. It was our first major fight as a married couple. And let me tell you, it was a doozy. The conversation started out innocently but went south within a matter of minutes. 

I remember it like yesterday. 

I was standing in the living room of our 600 square foot condo looking at my adorable husband when I blurted out something about parenting our future children. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it had something to do with their health. I wasn’t even pregnant at the time–only dreaming about our babies. 

As any young bride would, I thought my husband would want to dream with me. Sadly, that was not the case.

The next thing I knew, he was telling me the health protocol of our children. We were going to feed them cod liver oil. What? Cod liver oil? Yuck. 

Of course, I reacted in defiance to the idea our faux children would ever be forced into such a horrible practice. It sounded like something from the Dark Ages. 

I was envisioning a wicked mother with a black hat and a wart on her nose chasing our sweet babies around the house, spoon in hand, cramming the putrid liquid down their throats. 

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In my mind, I could hear a shrill cackle following the dirty deed, while my poisoned children withered to the floor. I wanted no part of his horrible plans. I was not going to be that kind of mother. And most of all, he wasn’t going to tell me how to raise our pretend children. 

Unfortunately, the last thing I remember about that conversation was my husband pointing his finger at me. What happened next was all a blur. 

Supposedly, I grabbed his finger and bit the fire out of it. Then I ran to our bedroom (which was about six feet from the living room), slammed the door, and locked it. I clearly remember that part.

Once I was in our bedroom, I fell into a puddle of tears on the bed and cried hysterically. What had I done? Who was this man I married? He had never been demanding before we married, nor had he ever pointed his finger at me. 

Sadly, that day I thought I had made the most horrible mistake of my life marrying my husband. But there was no going back. Sooner or later, I was going to have to unlock the bedroom door and let my husband in. Not just into the bedroom but into my life. If we were going to have a long, healthy marriage, both of us were going to have to learn how to resolve conflict as a team. Otherwise, I was going to be in jail soon due to excessive bite marks!

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Both of us had brought into our relationship a set of tools that were not healthy when it came to conflict. I liked to run away, avoid, and wallow in self-pity. On the other hand, my husband’s way of dealing with things was to pull up your bootstraps and push through, even if it meant leaving a few tread marks behind.

As you can imagine, our first few years together were bumpy. We were both determined to change each other, all the while avoiding our own baggage. 

One day, I was so frustrated with my husband that I started talking (complaining) to God about our issues. In my heart, I felt Him nudging me to start praying for him.

What? Pray for my husband? Really? 

Reluctantly, I obeyed. It was hard at first, but I figured I had nothing to lose. 

After about a month of praying consistently, my heart softened. I no longer felt the urge to give my husband the silent treatment, nitpick, or even complain. I started to let the little things go and continued to ask God to change him. Little did I realize God was changing me, too.

I am not sure what happened after I started praying. Either the little things stopped bothering me or my husband changed. (Probably a little of both.) 

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Over time, we both realized we only had the power to change ourselves, not each other. I wish I had known that sooner. It would have saved us a lot of grief (and bite marks). 

As we approach our 27th wedding anniversary, we are happier now than ever. While we still have disagreements from time to time, we both go to God immediately when there is an impasse. And that has made all the difference. 

By the way, my kids did take cod liver while growing up. Did you know it is the best remedy for ear infections?

Julie Plagens

Julie is a wife, mother, author, teacher, and blogger. Before she married, she taught speech, drama, and English for three years in the Richardson Independent School District, a suburb of Dallas, Tx. In 2009, Julie experienced a devasting estrangement from parents who were in Christian ministry. (Her father was the associate pastor of two megachurches in Dallas.) After seven years away, she miraculously reconciled with them. Now Julie writes and speaks about family relationships, marriage, parenting, and faith.  You can check out her blog  Mom Remade or find her books Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart and Creating Family Memories on Amazon or your favorite digital bookstore. Check out her social media on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram @julieaplagens.