Two weeks into our parenting journey, and somehow my wife’s way of changing a diaper was right. Mine was wrong.
I had just as much experience as she did, but it didn’t matter. Her claim felt like a slap in the face.
I thought we were partners figuring out this parenting thing together. But after that moment, I felt I would never measure up to her. She was the mommy.
I spitefully questioned whether I should let her take over diaper duty from then on.
The right way vs. the wrong way
Conflict in marriage is inevitable, especially when both parties are exhausted. But the root of conflict goes much deeper than lack of sleep.
James 4:1-11 says fights are caused because “you desire and do not have” and “you covet and cannot obtain” (verse 2).
James was right. I desired respect I felt I didn’t have. I coveted the high status bestowed upon mothers I felt was out of my reach as a man. With my return to work fast approaching, I feared my role as a father would soon be downgraded to financial provider, playmate, and occasional babysitter.
The fight over the “right way” to change a diaper soon came to symbolize all I hoped fatherhood would be.
Fights like this are common. The constant battle for supremacy in marriage causes us to believe everything will get better if only we can get our spouse to do things our way.
Yet arguments about the “right way” to load the dishwasher, proper bedtime for the kids, or the necessity of that last purchase, are rarely about what they seem.
Simmering beneath the surface of our conflicts is something more significant—a longing, fear, or an unspoken desire.
It’s why hindsight often causes us to regret our actions. We wonder, why did I get so angry? Why did I say that?
The problem is, the more we focus on the actions of our spouse to explain our own behavior, the deeper the real sources of conflicts hide.
The root cause of asking how do I get my spouse to do it my way
My anger had little to do with a desire to win an Olympic medal for diaper changing. The truth is, I was terrified of being a father.
If I couldn’t even change a diaper the right way, how could I be the father my daughter needed me to be?
Would she forget me when I went back to work? Would she trust me? What about as she got older? Would she love Christ, or turn away?
My daughter’s helplessness brought every insecurity I ever had to the surface.
I needed help.
Then I was reminded of Genesis 2:18: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”
The power of humility
As I looked at my wife rocking our daughter to sleep, I realized I didn’t have to carry the burden alone. God had already provided a perfect helper. I just needed the humility to accept His provision.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
When I asked my wife to explain why she preferred her method over mine, I was surprised. Everything she said made sense. Her way was faster and had a better chance of keeping our daughter from fully waking up in the middle of the night—something we both desperately needed.
I realized she wasn’t trying to dominate me or question my parenting abilities. She simply wanted to share a trick to make both of our lives easier.
Too often, we focus on trying to be right. When we do, we turn marriage into a competition and miss the benefits of having a partner.
Not long after the diaper arguments, we were returning home from a busy day. As usual, our daughter fell asleep on the ride home. The impossible task of transferring her to the crib without waking her fell on me.
After one too many failures, I tried something new that day. I came down from her room seconds later and declared, “Done!”
When my wife visited our daughter’s room later to check on her, she found her sleeping peacefully in the crib. Still strapped into her car seat.
“I can’t believe you!” she whispered angrily.
“It’s OK,” I said. “She’s safe, comfortable, and most importantly, asleep. I’ll take her out when she wakes up. Come on. Let’s get some sleep.”
That night we had six glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep.
It doesn’t matter whose way is better. If we’re on the same team, we both win.
Don’t get me wrong. We still fight over silly things, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re on the same team.
For more on developing humility your marriage, read Marriage Requires Humility.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Little Rock, Arkansas, with their two children.