For most of my marriage, I’ve had this question, that I just COULDN’T puzzle out.
It is this: when do I need to bring something up with Rich and when do I just need to let it go?
I face this dilemma every Sunday when we hold our weekly marriage check ins.
This incident kinda bothered me. Bring it up or let it go?
I’m feeling anxious about this- is that because I’m overreacting?
We’ve been fighting about this- who is wrong and who is right?
Who is blinded and who is speaking truth?
I’ve read a lot of marriage books and articles in search of a 1,2,3 step system to decipher when to bring something up and when to let it go. Or to figure out when I’m in the wrong and when I’m in the right.
But alas, my searches have yet been unsatisfied.
However, as I’ve matured, I think I’ve figured out the missing piece to my puzzle: INTEGRITY.
Integrity doesn’t provide a 3-step plan (c’mon integrity, get on that!), but rather it provides me with an inner compass where, when I quiet myself, I can FEEL in my gut whether or not I’m in need of course correction. I can FEEL when to bring something up and when to let it go. I can feel when I’m acting out of the worst in me or the best.
I wish my inner compass were stronger. Sometimes, it is clear as day, but other times, my compass feels clouded over and I’m unable to see clearly.
I also wish these things were easy fixes, but developing integrity is anything but a quick fix, it is a long road. Integrity is forged over a life time of quiet, unheralded choices to act out of the best in us.
WHAT IS INTEGRITY?
Google told me the definition of integrity is this:
“1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”
“2. the state of being whole and undivided.” (Totally love this definition- more on it later)
But, I’m going to define integrity as:
the ability to ACT OUT OF THE BEST IN US.
This sounds simple, but is shockingly hard. Mostly because the worst in us LOVES to be coddled and parade around like its the best in us. We can fool even ourselves! I have been shocked at my own moral failing more times than I can count when I do something that seems outwardly “right” or “good” but then realize its all for the praise of others and not actually based in my own integrity.
Personal integrity does have a lot to do with honesty (thanks Google), since forging integrity requires RADICAL honesty with ourselves as we have to explore and own up to the real reasons we do the things we do.
THIS SOUNDS HARD. WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Forging integrity is one of the hardest things to do in life, it’s true. I won’t rose-color it for you. It can be a painful process to dig down deep inside us and figure out we don’t like what we find. It can be exhausting to apply our integrity to everyday decisions when merely reacting to our situations without much thought is SO much easier. Taking responsibility for our behaviors, motivations and attitudes is infinitely more difficult than putting that responsibility on others. (am I selling you yet?)
But forging integrity, acting out of the best in us, and building a strong inner compass is, I think, the most important and worthwhile work we have to do on this earth.
Remember that second definition of integrity? “The state of being whole and undivided.” (thanks Google!) Being whole and undivided is both the what and the why of integrity. Without integrity, we will never be whole, we will always be divided within ourselves. At war with ourselves.
We know deep down we should act more honestly or compassionately, but we don’t. This act divides our behavior from our conscience and we feel that dissonance. We often try to numb it, but it doesn’t go away.
Peace lies in acting out of the best in us because when we don’t, we will be at war inwardly. Most people try to numb this war away with their favorite numbing devices (alcohol, sugar, social media, porn, rage, perfectionism, pick your poison), but the problem with numbing devices is, while they are temporarily effective, they are a terrible long-term solution. They do nothing to make us whole and undivided. Only forging true integrity can do that.
OK FINE, BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY MARRIAGE?
So glad you asked!
Integrity has so many benefits in marriage- inner peace even in the face of conflict, self-confidence, trust, loyalty, honesty, and compassion to name a few.
But I think one of the most useful benefits to having integrity is what I alluded to in my story above- the ability to know you are making a good decision and the confidence to act even when it is hard.
A few concrete examples:
- Let’s say you and your spouse are fighting about the state of the house- should you give into their demands or hold your ground? You can be confident in your decision if you are acting out of integrity.
- Let’s say you need to know whether or not to leave a relationship. How do you know whether you are being reactive or acting for the best of everyone involved? You’ll know by your integrity (and it could totally go either way!)
- Let’s say your spouse is pressuring you in the bedroom and you set a boundary. Your spouse is making you question whether or not you are just being selfish. You can hold your ground if you are confident you set the boundary in your integrity.
- On the flip side, let’s say that your spouse continuously shuts down activities in the bedroom and you ask them to re-evaluate. They get reactive and call you selfish. You are able to hold your ground without blame if you are confident you brought it up out of your own integrity.
- Let’s say you want to go on a certain vacation and your spouse doesn’t. You pressure them to agree to it. Later, you realize it didn’t feel quite right. You’ll feel you were in the wrong based on how strong your moral compass, or your integrity is.
- Let’s say your father-in-law is imposing on how you want to raise your family, so you set a boundary with him. If your moral compass is strong, you can be confident you made the right choice even if it creates disorder in the family. If your moral compass is weak, you’ll be constantly questioning that decision and will likely retreat and resentfully accommodate the status quo.
- Let’s say your spouse has made a lot of expensive purchases lately and your budget is in the red. If your moral compass is strong, you’ll be able to have a hard conversation for the best of everyone even if your spouse becomes angry. If your moral compass is weak, you’ll avoid having the conversation or you’ll have the conversation and then have a lot of self-doubt.
- Let’s say something your spouse said really bothered you. You want to bring it up, but can feel that you are tired and not in your best frame of mind. Out of your integrity you decide to hold your tongue until you are better rested and can make a better decision one way or the other.
Forging integrity, forging a strong moral compass is what allows us to be confident in the millions of little and big decisions and interactions with our spouse. If we lack integrity, we will be constantly questioning ourselves, we will be at war inwardly. If we act in our integrity, even if we create discomfort in our marriage by setting a boundary or having a hard conversation, we will be at peace.
Integrity is the key to inner-peace in a relationship.
I still wonder what to bring up and what to get over. I still wonder sometimes whether I’m “in the right.” But when I take time to meditate, to quiet myself and seek out my moral compass, I can feel I am increasing my ability to confidently know what to do without doubting myself. Even if I need to disrupt the outward peace, I feel inner-peace.
Now that we know it’s important, HOW do we forge it?
That my friends will be the subject of the next blog post. Stay tuned!