I was in the middle of a tense conversation with a young couple awhile back. They were rather bravely trying to parse the particulars of how to make decisions without killing each other.
Learning how two strong people who inhabit different bodies learn to give and take is actually no small feat, right?
Well, what struck me in that conversation was this: oh my stars, my husband and I are so flaming good at this! We don’t realize how good a job we do at stapling together the best parts of two viewpoints into a livable whole.
We don’t count how well we come to a meeting of the minds.
So I texted my husband. “I just realized that you and I are rock stars when it comes to making decisions.” And I could feel the Man from Ohio beam through the stratosphere.
Of course, all this is worthy of note because there are other arenas we have not come close to mastering. Not in 43 years. The notion that Stacy would become a man who could finish my thoughts, so intuitive was he—that mirage I gave up for Lent a few years back.
And I can assure you he’s secretly looked for a crash course on being organized and punctual and seriously considered giving it to me for Christmas. I would even take the course if I thought the course would take.
But, you see, this crazy quest for relational perfection mirrors one of the great misconceptions of our day. Somehow this primary relationship called your marriage is an eternal fixer-upper project and you can get this thing really, really right if you just work hard enough.
You walk through the house of your marriage, like Chip and Joanna Gaines walk through an old home, suffused with the illusion that if you keep knocking out walls and updating the kitchen you will get There.
This notion is funding many marriage therapists’ retirement accounts.
The cost of that illusion, though, is a focus that gets locked down on what the two of you are missing. Or what the other person lacks.
I’ve known couples who could hardly talk in complete sentences, who couldn’t name most feelings accurately with a gun to the head—but by all reports, they have great sex. And you’ve known husbands and wives who take care of each other so attentively you’d think they each had a personal butler—but they’d win no awards as parents. This is the stuff of actual relationships.
The whole quest for what-is-missing often reminds me of the original couple in the Garden who just could not abide the idea there was one tree that remained off-limits. It’s the backdrop, I think, to every one of my inclinations to fixate on what I don’t have—rather, than what I’ve been given.
Relationships suffer from this grasping discontent. We build best when we build out from the solid places. In some strange way, your strengths as a couple buttress the shaky parts you may never master.
You might want to take this story and find your own version of the quiet little “hallelujah” place in your marriage.
I can pretty well guarantee you its hiding there in plain sight. As it is for me.
It's waiting to be counted