“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” If there’s one quote which sums up my marriage, it would be this one! My husband and I have been married for the past four and a half years and I can’t say that it has always been easy for either one of us. I can honestly say that I have not always put his needs above my own, I have a very strong independent streak, and I have a very type “A” personality, all of which adds up to me wanting things to go my way ALL the time. I recognize the fact that these are not ideal qualities to have in a spouse. I would even go so far as to say that they can be quite detrimental to a marriage and I am sure they were contributors to the dissolution of my first marriage.
Adding the stress of graduate school on top of kids and both of us working full-time has taught me a few valuable lessons about marriage and the importance of not only accepting the other person’s imperfections but recognizing and working on your own as well. This is way easier said than done! It seems that everywhere you look are pictures of blissful couples enjoying beautiful sunsets and exchanging smiles as they embark upon some new adventure together. Meanwhile, I am feeling frustrated because I have a to-do list a mile long and the perception that my less-than-perfect husband is doing way less than he should to help out.
And then one day, it occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t being a perfect wife either. That maybe my own actions were contributing to my perceptions that my husband wasn’t helpful enough. That maybe I had unreasonable expectations of what he could accomplish in a day. That maybe he didn’t sign on for a constantly stressed out and cranky wife. That maybe marriage isn’t so much a fairy tale happily ever after as much as it is a daily choice to work through life’s challenges with that one person for the rest of your life instead of throwing in the towel the second you butt heads about who gets more naps or who gets more free time to do their hobby of choice (both frequent topics of contention in our household!).
I think that sometimes in marriage, there is a tendency toward comparison and absolutes which can tear a couple apart. The internal conversation goes something like this, “I ALWAYS get up early with the kids while he ALWAYS sleeps in. He NEVER does ANYTHING to help out around the house. He ALWAYS gets free time to do what he wants.” In reality, there are plenty of times when he gets up with the kids, helps out around the house, or when she gets free time. Human nature is somewhat biased in that we have a perception that we do or love the most, especially in the context of marriage. We tend to be blind to our own imperfections and instead focus on those of our spouse. So much so that after awhile, anything which doesn’t go well starts getting framed as their fault.
I strongly believe that there are negative relationship dynamics out there which are abusive and if you believe this is the case in yours, please seek assistance from professionals trained in this area. However, if these dynamics are not at play in your relationship and you want to improve your relationship with your spouse, then I would highly encourage you to start analyzing how your own behavior contributes to various situations. If you’ve been married for any length of time, I’m sure you have learned that it is impossible to compel your spouse to do anything they are not motivated to do. It’s as impossible as getting my middle child to wear anything other than shorts, even in the dead of winter! Therefore, the logical place to start is often with yourself since you do have control over your own actions and behaviors.
Another angle to take is starting to look for the positive qualities in your spouse rather than focusing on the negatives. Shifting focus toward the positive, in your relationship or in life, takes a conscious daily decision as it tends to be easier to simply blame someone else than to take responsibility for yourself. In many cases, improving your marriage takes careful consideration of yourself and how you are contributing to the issues. I began to realize that in my own marriage, my tendency towards perfectionism led me down a path of constantly identifying the less-than-perfect in my husband instead of celebrating the triumphs and areas where we complement each other. I find it somewhat ironic that often in marriage, those qualities directly opposite to ours are often our biggest challenges when they should actually be viewed as a means to round out our own sharp edges.
Marriage is the union of two lives into one, which sounds incredibly poetic but requires way more work than implied. Harmony in marriage requires that you work together as a team, utilizing each other’s strengths, to solve life’s challenges and when done this way, it makes you stronger together than apart. This past weekend, I participated in a relay marathon and I can’t tell you how great it felt to have my husband in the crowd cheering me on! It was the best feeling in the world and reminded me that it’s these small moments that build a life worth living. Despite each of our imperfections as people, I know that we will always fight for each other and our marriage. I know that we will weather many storms together and also rejoice in the triumphs. I know that we will continue fighting to make our marriage the best that it can be. After all, nothing worth having comes easily and marriage is certainly no exception!!