It happened again. At the end of a long day after a long week with two kids with runny noses and crazy objectives to complete both at work and at home, I let loose on the one adult who is closest to me: my husband. Now do not get me wrong, the words spoken were truthful and not without cause; however, they were also delivered from a place of hurt, anger, and malicious intent. I was a living manifestation of hurt people seek to hurt people.
And there was no speaking the truth in love.
Which is just a little bit crazy because honestly most of the time on the outer level, and all the time at the deeper inner level, I truly love my husband and know that he is an amazing guy. But at times, things happen (like a lack of communication, or a lack of consideration, or an easy oversight, or an unintentionally selfish moment on his part) that influence my said outer level and all of a sudden, a neon sign invades my thoughts and sparks feelings of hurt and anger that resounds with a horrible but unstoppable…
“I hate my husband.”
There; I said it. It is out in the open for all to see. And while I realize that “hate” is a very strong word and no, I do not actually want to “damn him to hell” as all my good Christian Southern women are gasping about in this moment, the feelings I am experiencing are real, intense, and desparate – just like you may feel about any difficult situation and think in that moment that you “hate” this. And for some reason (which I have yet to figure out although I have tried and tried) this is the phrase that surfaces when I’ve reached my limit and have left too many things unresolved, unsaid, and still hurting. And if I’m not careful, especially given the weight of this hefty statement that seems to blow up my mind in the moment, these thoughts and emotions that are only on the surface will begin to creep in and exert pressure or depreciate the foundation of my true love and appreciation for my husband.
Kendrick and Kendrick (2008), the authors of the Love Dare, provide my favorite way to understand this situation with the picture of two rooms within our hearts. One room is called the Appreciation Room, and is decorated with all of the awesome things I love about my husband, his attributes I admire and respect, the sweet and tender moments we have shared, and all those things that make me smile when I think about him. If you get the warm and fuzzies about it, it resides in your appreciation room. In contrast, the second room is called the Depreciation Room, and it houses all of the negative things that have hurt me, disappointed me, annoyed me, and all of the destructive moments that have occurred in our relationship throughout the years. While I consider us to have a strong and healthy marriage, these moments and things DO exist and after over 10 years of marriage and over 15 years of being a couple, this room has its share of devastating decor. If it makes you sad or angry, it resides in your depreciation room.
***Important Disclaimer Here: This entire post is about a marriage/relationship that is for the most part, healthy. It is NOT speaking to any relationship where ANY form of ABUSE or TOXIC dynamic is at play. My husband would NEVER intentionally hurt me in any way and so that allows me to write this post from a place of safety and security. If you are currently involved in or think you may be involved in an abusive marriage/relationship, where you do not feel safe and secure, I encourage you to STOP READING and REACH OUT to someone to get help. There is an amazing, anonymous hotline you can call (1.800.799.7233) or access online (www.thehotline.org) or you can contact me using the contact page and I will get you connected with someone right away.***
Each of our significant relationships, whether it be a marriage or friendship or parent-child or sibling relationship, has these two rooms within our heart just for them that accumulate the above noted things over time. While it might be nice to just destroy or lock the Depreciation Room, we are all human and unfortunately, this is not possible. However, we can make an intentional choice each day of where we want to spend the majority of our time. And I guarantee, even in reading this post if you have never heard of this concept, the effects of choosing to spend more time in your Appreciation room versus your Depreciation room are life (and relationship) changing!
To Appreciate or Depreciate: That is the Question
When I first think things like “I hate [insert your own word here: dislike, can’t stand, am super annoyed with…] my [insert your person: husband, boyfriend, mom, dad, sister, brother, bestie, etc…]” I am usually reacting to a specific situation and it is very difficult to retrain your brain to stop an initial reaction the second it happens (possible yes, but it takes much time, effort, and practice and that is for another post). However, like with most things in life, it is what we do with it once it is here that really matters.
If I choose to KEEP dwelling on my hurt, KEEP replaying that phrase over and over in my head and possibly adding other negative words or meaning to it, and KEEP making a list of everything he has done that might have hurt or bothered me recently – then I am making an intentional choice to depreciate him and spend my time in the Depreciation Room in my heart. In this room, the walls are decorated with framed pictures recounting all of our worst moments: the very few times when he did not keep his word, the very frequent times where he has had to choose work over me, the times when he forgot certain things that were special to me and I spent the whole day wondering if he would remember. And now, adding parenting to the mix, I would have to add a TV in the corner of the room on replay of him driving to work everyday, going to the office all by himself, eating lunch while it is still hot with his co-workers, and enjoying the adventures of the outside world (ok… this might not always be realistic, but the Depreciation room does have a tendency to distort reality a little bit) while I stay at home with our two littles all.day.every.day. (ps: which I absolutely love to do, but if you have ever had the joy of being a stay-at-home mom, there are days which are not so delightful and going to work looks quite enticing).
If I stay here too long, I become immersed in the worst of our relationship, which as noted above, is not all that there is and at times, comes from a distorted sense of my own selfish expectations and thoughts instead of the truth of reality. The results of this immersion and time spent in the Depreciation Room are additional hurt and anger that breed bitterness and resentment in my heart towards the one I truly love. And the scary part is that bitterness and resentment are silent killers. They destroy from the inside out, so if left unchecked, will eat away at my own quality of life and my marriage, and innocent parties, like my children and others around me, will be devastated in the process.
Fortunately, recognizing the risks, I sought the wise counsel of a trusted friend and confessed these thoughts so that they would not take root in my heart. Remember, this is often the best answer to things we are keeping hidden: get it in the light so it no longer has power over you or your situation. In this case, she made a suggestion that has stayed with me ever since, and has dramatically changed who I am and how I approach my husband. Sweetly and kindly, if you knew her you would be able to picture it (suffice it to say: she won the please and thank you award as a child), she said “Next time you think “I hate my husband” maybe you should replace it with “I heart my husband.” What?! 🙂
In essence, with one flip of a word, she encouraged me to turn my frown upside down (LOL I spend a lot of time with people under 4) and make the conscious decision to get out of my Depreciation Room, walk down the hall (sometimes with my feet dragging), and enter my Appreciation Room to take a look at what is there. To move past my initial reaction, as justified as it may be, to truly appreciate my husband, and redirect my time and energy to where I really want to be. And to be honest, my Appreciation Room is awesome! Inside, I have framed memories from what seems like a lifetime ago, to the first youth conference in Ocean City, MD, where my husband (only an acquaintance then) protected my honor from some strangers, to a youth event a couple years later where I knew I was going to marry him (I was watching him throw another kid into a pool… yup he is mine!), to walking down the aisle as he is beaming and vowing to love me, to the birth of our sons, and so on and so forth. There are TVs and music playing… songs we love to sing and family dance parties on replay. There is an hourglass counting down the time until he can retire, and valuing every grain of sand that stands for another day that he has faithfully gone to work to provide for his family (yes, in my appreciation room I actually like that he goes to work and works hard and provides for us). This is where I want to be all of the time, dwelling on what is true, what is good, what is honorable (Philippians 4: 8), and enjoying the good memories we have made together.
It’s amazing how one little word change, one small decision can have such huge ramifications. Even in writing this post, the difference I feel between reading about the Depreciation Room and the Appreciation Room is astounding. When I leave off in the Appreciation Room, I am filled with love and gratitude and value for the man in my life. And while it does not resolve the issues that are present and that invoked my initial reaction (this is another post on conflict resolution because that is a topic all by itself), choosing to purposefully value my husband and spend time appreciating him sets me up to confront him, to resolve our issues, and to [wait for it; that’s right…] actually speak the truth in LOVE.
So, Where do you spend your time?
If you have the chance (it only takes a moment), I encourage you to think about the relationships that are most important to you. It does not have to be a marriage, as these rooms apply to all relationships. Maybe you and your spouse are doing great, but your mom has said or done one more thing to add to the tension and you are about to explode. Maybe you have found that you dread one more interaction with your teenager, and you are always on edge when you are around him.
Whatever your situation might be, I challenge you to think about those two rooms for this relationship. How would you decorate your Depreciation Room? How would you decorate your Appreciation Room? If you are honest, where do you spend the most time and why? Then, make it a point (an experiment even) to see what happens if you intentionally start spending more time in your Appreciation Room. Who knows? Maybe it is time to re-decorate and re-establish the things you love and appreciate about that person. Maybe it is time, before you explode or confront or cut-off, to try to value and cherish and operate from a place of positivity rather than negativity. Maybe it is time to turn hate into heart. I know it is for me, because honestly, I do “heart” my husband. ♥
PS: There is actually a shirt LOL… I had no idea until today! 🙂