Marriage Is Like A Dented Fender

A few weeks ago, I had a fender bender coming home from work. It was a very minor fender bender. No one was hurt. There was only a small amount of damage to my car and no damage to the other car. We didn’t even have to call the police.

I was glad that the damage was so minor, but my car had been in pristine condition up until this point. Now there was this dent in the front of my car for everyone to see.

I became a little OCD about it. Every time I walked to my car, I would stop and look at the dent. When I went into the garage to get something, I would look at it. I was beginning to fixate on the dent.

So I took it to a body shop to get an estimate on repairing it. I went in thinking, “Oh, it’s a very small dent. It can’t be that much to fix.” That hopeful delusion was quickly shattered when I walked out with an estimate of over $1,000.

Now the mental debate began:

I don’t have that kind of money right now, and the car is in perfect working condition. Besides, the dent is really not that glaring. Theres no need to fix it. But, I hate the fact that everyone can see this dent. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and it’s driving me crazy.

So what did I do? Well for now, the dent is still there. The more time passes the easier it’s getting to accept, but I don’t know that’s a sign of reasonableness or complacency.

All of this got me thinking about marriage. You can’t go through marriage without getting some dents. A few of your marriage dents may be major dents involving things like:

  • On-going hurtful attitudes of disrespect, condescension and dominance.
  • Abuse that can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
  • Neglect that refuses to tend to a spouse’s basic physical and relational needs.
  • Infidelity that occurs when a spouse turns to someone outside their marriage for emotional, physical or sexual intimacy that only their spouse should provide.
  • Uncontrolled anger that bruises a spouse’s body and/or their spirit.

The major dents must be taken care of, for they jeopardize the safety and functioning of the marriage. But most of your marriage dents will be minor dents involving frustration with things like:

Personality differences. Personality differences cause a majority of marital fender benders. Here are some common examples:

  • One of you loves to be around people, but the other sees people as a nuisance to be avoided.
  • One of you is a colorful free spirit while the other is black and white and as rigidly structured as a secret service agent.
  • One of you is quiet and reserved, but the other is as loud and boisterous as a frat party.
  • One of you is a glass-half-full kind of person while the other doesn’t even believe there is a glass.
  • One of you likes to hold information close while the other tends to tell everything they know.

Everyday habits. It’s one thing to date someone for a few hours at a time. But when the date never ends and you’re together 24/7, habits start to dent your marital fenders. Habits like:

  • Watching the same shows over and over again.
  • Clipping toenails…in the living room…and not cleaning them up.
  • Opening the fridge and drinking out of the carton.
  • Leaving shoes and socks laying around.
  • Not wiping off the stove, or other areas, after using them.
  • Chewing with their mouth open.

Personal style or tastes. Because our personalities are often different, our tastes and styles are often different.

  • One likes their chili mild and the other wants it hot enough to send you to the burn unit.
  • One likes business casual and the other prefers work-in-the-yard casual.
  • One wants things neat and clean and the other is ok with that “lived-in” look.
  • One likes romantic comedies and the other wants exploding tanks and space aliens.

There’s no doubt that these (and other) minor marriage dents can still cause some major marriage frustration, but the frustration is made worse when we begin to focus and fixate on the minor dents until they seem like major dents to us. (Of course I don’t do that, but I’ve heard some people do.)

So how do you tell if you’re looking at a major dent that needs to be fixed, or a minor dent that doesn’t necessarily need to be addressed? Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is this truly a threat to the health and safety of me and my marriage, or is it just something I don’t like? If the answer is, “Yes, this does threaten the health and safety of me and my marriage,” then it’s probably a major dent to be addressed.
  • Is this something done intentionally to hurt me, or is it unintentional and just a part of who they are? If the answer is “No, it’s not intentional or personal,” then it may be a minor dent. (I say “may be” because, unintentional or not, if it’s hurting you it’s still a dent that needs fixing.)
  • Is this something that drives me crazy because it’s truly wrong, or is it just because it’s different from the way I like things? If the answer is, “It’s just different from the way I like things,” then it’s probably a minor dent.
  • If this is never “fixed,” can we still have a long and happy marriage? If the answer is “yes,” then it’s probably a minor dent.

I’m sure there are other questions you could ask to evaluate whether a marital dent is major or minor, but these questions should get you started on figuring out the difference.

I’m not saying you should ignore every minor dent in your marriage. I’m saying not every minor dent needs to be “fixed.” Nor does every minor dent mean your marriage (or your car) needs to be totaled. Accepting a minor dent in marriage can be more a sign of maturity than surrender.

When it comes to marriage, sometimes you just need to learn to appreciate the car, with all it’s minor dents, and keep on rolling toward the destination together.

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