One of my favorite Bible verses says “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). If you are not an avid reader of the Bible (or even a casual one): The Song of Solomon is a love story, an allegory of God’s love for us as told through the eyes of a young couple in love. I won’t get deep into the symbolism—let’s take it for what it is. That verse that I just quoted essentially, in today’s language, says this:
“Catch the little problems, the little issues that destroy relationships—our love is growing.”
As a recovering grudge holder, I can say with certainty that many of you have ended relationships—even gone as far as getting a separation or divorce—because of the “little foxes.” What are the little foxes?
Well they aren’t things like toothpaste caps and toilet seats. If you leave someone over that kind of stuff, you need to be by yourself—you are OCD and need to learn to manage that ministry before introducing someone else into your foolishness.
The little foxes look like this:
- Your mother (consistently single since your last sibling’s birth) telling you what all your husband should be doing.
- Your best girlfriend constantly starting sentences with, “If I was you, girl, I would…”
- Your boy telling you, “Bros before hoes.”
- His mother making snide comments about your weight—and him not checking her.
- Her father making you feel ashamed because you guys need to borrow money while you’re in a tight spot.
- You go out all the time with your “friends” but do not include your significant other (especially when one is left to watch the kids all the time).
- Her always nagging you about what you haven’t done, what you need to do, why you never do what you need to do.
- Him always tuning you out rather than listening to your needs.
- Unresolved conflicts allowed to fester.
- Unreasonable demands by both sides with no one willing to back done and no one willing to throw the first punch.
Anger is a serious issue that can lead to emotional and physical violence—but resentment? Resentment is the silent killer of all relationships. When minor issues rankle, the most important thing in a relationship—your ability to communicate—takes a hit.
What happens next is deleterious to the health of your relationship. Because what happens next happens in a place where no one has any control except you: Your mind begins to develop around negative thoughts about your partner. When you don’t deal with the issue at hand, everything suddenly becomes an issue added to an ever growing checklist of everything that is wrong with your significant other and your relationship.
Then, as if by magic, everything that he/she does that is nice, loving, kind, sweet becomes spoiled. You can’t enjoy it—you’re too busy attaching it to the list of wrongs, weighing it against the last “horrible” thing, wondering if the other person is using this kindness to hide something else wrong.
So does one do to keep this bitter root from growing up behind minor infractions?
- Express yourself. I don’t mean that you have to have a deep and involved conversation about every little infraction, but being able to express your hurt—especially if it is something consistently bothering you—is key in not walking around with a chip on your shoulder. Prayer or Journals are always good. You can write down how you feel (get all those bitches and muthafuckas out yo spirit); then once the venom is spent, reflect on why you feel so strongly about that issue. It could lead to deeper, more meaningful healing for you. I, for instance, hate rejection so much that every disagreement makes me feel like I am being personally rejected. I had to work on that inside myself so that I could effectively communicate with people in general, my spouse in particular.
- Be angry but don’t sin. Again, good Christian advice (that more people need to get with). If you have a legitimate reason to be upset, it’s okay. There is nothing wrong with being angry. Even God gets angry. What you don’t want to do is allow yourself to become the other wrong party. Learn how to voice your concerns in a way that expresses your concerns—not to judge, to blame, to criticize, or to hurt. And please don’t be passive aggressive. That just makes things worse. And please don’t hit anybody or bust out any car windows. That’s just foolish.
- Don’t go to bed angry. Again, good Christian advice (that more people need to get with). If you aren’t going to talk about it with the offending party, then: don’t sulk, don’t whine, don’t pout, don’t give them the silent treatment, don’t stew over it. Forgive them then let it go. Sometimes, believe it or not, people don’t mean to hurt you. Sometimes you just get hurt. You need to know when people are actively trying to make you miserable or not. And even if someone is trying to hurt you, you still have the ability to release that. Joyce Meyer experienced abuse at the hands of her father—today, she has forgiven him and continues to help her parents live (even though in most people’s eyes they don’t deserve it). I’m not saying you need to be nice to your (emotional/physical) attacker—I’m just saying that at some point you need to release that hurt.
If you can catch the little foxes before they tear up what you’ve worked hard to nurture, your relationship can stand the test of time. Start avoiding resent and bitterness today.
(Author’s Disclaimer: the information in these articles is based on personal experience and some research. I am not a licensed marriage counselor; however, I do know what I’m talking about. If you do the things I’m telling you, it will work. For more faith based approaches, feel free to shoot your girl an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)