“It’s cold in here,” I say.
“No, it’s about right,” my wife replies, “You just came in. You’re not regulated.”
I mumble, “I know my own skin.” I am convinced that the temperature is all wrong. Intolerable, in fact. I check the thermostat for vindication.
“68 -72 is the comfort zone,” I cite the American Journal of HVAC – a line I’ve used before.
Jean repeats her standard line, “Yes, but the thermostat is placed wrong. You’ll warm up…just wait.”
“Hmmpfh,” I politely emit (snort), my nose inches from the thermostat. I consider pressing the button to spin up the numbers to a ‘reasonable range’. But I don’t. Instead, I walk away feeling dismissed. Later, when Jean looks my way, I shiver slightly. If this gets no effect, I might put on an overcoat and hat.
“If you’re that uncomfortable,” she offers, “then change it.”
“No, no I’m fine,” I say pulling at my jacket. But I don’t look fine. I look bothered and insulted. At this point, Jean might suggest a thyroid check.
Jean and I are only a few degrees apart – as measured by the thermometer. Yet you would think the difference is life and death – as measured by my attitude. Why is it so important for me to be right? Something vital is at stake.
I’m the same way over differences about the speed limit, the right time to go to bed or where to sit at church. I am more concerned about being right than what is right. Our marriage tensions aren’t really about the thermostats and such, they are about me (or her) feeling secure as a person. If she disagrees or thinks I’m wrong or silly, I can’t handle it without protest or pouting.
In my mind, I can’t bear ‘being wrong’ and still feel good about myself. ‘Being right’ equals ‘right being’.
This is why small issues generate such large energy and ire. It may be childish to argue over a few degrees, but it is serious thing to desire to be a man. So a squabble over the thermostat somehow ends up as a battle for dignity.
This is also why so many arguments end with sweeping sarcasm – “Well, of course you know everything.” “Sure, we’ll do it your way again” or “You always have to be right.” We resort to global statements because we are fighting for our place in the world.
But what if I didn’t have to fight for my life? What if ‘right being’ came from somewhere other than being right? You see where I am going. My worth as a person isn’t based on what I know or how well I perform.
My worth is based on Unconditional Love.
This is a radical and frightening truth. If my worth is based on being loved, then I cannot self-generate it. The most vital thing I need, I cannot control: I need love and I cannot make it happen. It has to be given to me.
The good news is that Unconditional Love has already been given. Now I can give it away too.
Christian marriage happens when two people – who are already loved – pass that love to each other.
You’ll know you are there when you can adjust the thermostat with humor and grace.
If this topic has piqued your interest we’re offering a marriage seminar in September called “Love and War” that you may be interested in. Simply click here to find out more.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, Roger teaches and leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.