Wild Pitchers, Peaceful Catchers

And if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:8
Have you ever been asked to sit in front of a very full room of the opposite sex and answer all of the questions they have about your gender? I have. Our men’s group leader at church approached me one day and inquired if all the men could pre-write the questions they’ve always wanted to understand about women and give them to me, to be answered in person at their next men’s breakfast. Without hesitation, I said yes! I figured hopefully I could help them understand the female gender a little better and, if nothing else, it would be entertaining!
A week before the big day, I received a six-page compilation of questions from all of the guys who would be in attendance. Thank God for my friend Connie who agreed to take on the questions with me so I didn’t have to face the firing squad all by myself!
There was every kind of question you could imagine: “What are most women looking for in a man?” “My wife looked great when we got married, but now she makes little to no effort on her physical appearance. I feel like she did a bait and switch. How do I politely address this with her, yet still communicate love?” “How can I better help my wife when she is emotional or tired from her menstrual cycle?” “Why are some women so emotional and others aren’t?”
One of my favorite questions of all was a very simple one. “What can I do in our relationship to communicate more effectively and prevent arguments?” Although we had prepared some answers ahead, when I got to this question, what shot out of my mouth surprised me. I encouraged the men when communicating to always think of their marriage or relationship as they would if they were on a sports team.
I inquired of the group, “Have you ever watched a college or Major League Baseball game and seen a pitcher throw a wild pitch the catcher had to run after? Have you ever then seen the catcher run for the ball, look back at the pitcher and say, ‘If you’re going to make me run for the ball, then I’m going to get you back and make you run for it too!’ as he proceeds to throw a wild ball for the pitcher to chase?” Of course not! No one would make it to the college or Pro level if they had a mindset like that because it isn’t being team-minded, yet many couples act this way in marriage all of the time and think it’s normal.
It’s common to hear about a wife or husband who has a bad day at work, then comes home and says something sharply to their spouse. What happens next? The other one thinks, “Who do they think they are talking to me like that?” They proceed to snap back and an argument ensues which could have easily been prevented with a little team mindedness and basic communication.

Think of your relationship, whether it’s your spouse or kids, like you’re a team riding on a jet ski or snowmobile together. Depending on the water maneuver or snow terrain you are on, you sometimes have to lean a certain direction to make sure the jet ski or snowmobile doesn’t tip over.

It’s the same in relationships. If we see our spouse or loved one is having a bad day or going through a challenge in life, the best thing we can do if they lean the wrong direction is to overcompensate in the right direction. Showing compassion and empathy to stabilize the team helps prevent a rollover.
Unfortunately, many people instinctively do just the opposite and veer towards protecting themselves rather than protecting the team relationship. If I’m thinking like a team, I will always want to give my spouse or kids my best, even if they aren’t at their best in the moment.
I remember my first example of Shaun taking this team approach with me in our first couple years of marriage. I’ll embarrass myself and tell you the story. I was on the phone in our kitchen and Shaun started to vacuum in our living room. I thought he knew I was on the phone, which of course he obviously didn’t, or he wouldn’t have started vacuuming. I looked around the living room corner with a face of exasperation at my husband who was in the middle of a loving act of kindness. Covering the phone, I strongly said, “I’m on the phone!” As we would say in our house today, I was clearly flubberstrated (a much-loved word in the Gustafson house coined by our middle child when she was three).
Within a few minutes of getting off the phone, I started feeling bad about my tone of voice and facial expression. I went into our living room to apologize to Shaun. “What are you thinking about?” I asked. “I’m thinking about all the reasons I love being married to you,” he responded.
Wow! I threw him an out-of-nowhere wild ball, and in response, he threw a kind, mature, straight pitch back at me instead of what I so deserved at the moment. I quickly apologized for speaking in a dishonoring manner and asked, “Why would you be thinking about good things when I was just disrespectful to you?” With a smile he said, “God’s plan for our life is too important for me to let myself get offended, so I decided to focus on what I love about you instead. I know your heart and you’re normally very kind with your words.”
I once heard someone say we tend to judge others by their actions; however, we judge ourselves by our intentions. Shaun’s team-minded example changed my life forever because he did the opposite of what most people would want to do. In this moment, he chose to be loving and respectful even when I wasn’t.
Are we always this good at our relationship skills 100% of the time? No, but we both really work hard at remembering we are a team in marriage and as parents. It’s not always easy, but it makes our relationship much more enjoyable when we act team-minded and respond with a soft answer instead of anger.
Another great way to prevent arguments is to simply communicate. When you walk through the door, gently tell your spouse, “It’s been a rough day at work. A client chewed me out. I’m needing some recovery time, so if I don’t seem as friendly as normal, it’s not you. I love you.” Just these few little words eliminate misunderstandings and help prevent your spouse from jumping to conclusions or wondering if they did something wrong.
I pray this encourages you today and helps strengthen your relationships,