We recently celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary -- with a bowl of noodles, a bouquet of flowers, and each other -- and it got me thinking about how this marriage is working so well when the people in it can get so crazy and confused and frustrated and even at times, short-tempered and jerky. The relationship is imperfect to be sure. It's flawed, thanks to us, and in a counter-intuitive way, that makes it just about perfect.
We do like each other, so there's that. He's funny and kind. He's reliable and he brings a lightness to our house that I don't -- unless you consider smiley faces next to items on the grocery list light.
But, what we have goes deeper than any of that. And, it's not all that romantic. It's called commitment. Not just to each other, but to this idea that we can be ourselves truly, messily, imperfect, frustrating and annoying AND talented, creative and loving. We can be all that we are and still be in the relationship.
And, while it would be cool if he didn't empty his pockets on the kitchen counters and did remember that folding the clothes is actually an integral part of doing the laundry, I can live with him just as he is. Truth is, I'd rather deal with a pile of unfolded towels and have him here, than have a bunch of lovely terry cloth all squared up and be missing the man I'm married to.
Is the Relationship Worth the Inconvenience?
That's an important question to ask when the inconveniences do crop up. Is your relationship worth the inconvenience? You can certainly get rid of the relationship -- people do it all the time -- and it might mean fewer crumbs on the counter. It would also mean you are without the person who knows all that you are and loves you anyhow.
Note: If this is not the case, if you are devalued, or hurt physically or emotionally, it's time -- right now -- to consider some healthier alternatives. You are worthy and have a right to be safe, supported and valued in every relationship.
And there are plenty of things worth talking about -- values, finances, kids are a good start -- before you watch him move his heinous navy blue and pastel colored spattered couches into the living room. Just sayin'. But long after the couches have been moved, here are three tips to keep the little annoyances from becoming big trouble in your marriage.
Three Tips to Ease Marital Madness
1. Get curious instead of angry. Kathlyn Hendricks, co-author along with her husband Gay Hendricks, of Conscious Loving and co-founder of the Hendricks Institute, suggests you bring wonder into the relationship. Slow down to really look at each other and become interested.
When you are veering toward frustration or anger, stop to wonder. When you wonder about something you become less cutting and more curious. You create an environment for a safe information exchange rather than verbal spat. You learn things about each other and you ease the stress and concern for each other.
Next time you are ready to launch into a tirade, stop yourself and say "I wonder if..." then fill in the blank with something. "I wonder if you are afraid?" "I wonder if I felt hurt when you walked out of the room while I was talking?" "I wonder if you felt angry when I gave that criticism?" "I wonder what you mean by that?" It's surprising how fast this little phrase diffuses a difficult situation and provides helpful information.
2. Remember who you are. Let's be blunt: you are a mistake-prone, flawed individual who is equally awesome and abundant in skills, talents, ideas and opinions. I am too. And, because we are creative souls -- we all are -- it's likely that we are going to try new things and bungle them up royally. We are bound to say stupid things, forget to pick up the milk, recycle a bill, run out of clean underwear, or leave the cap off the toothpaste. It's gonna happen. With all the goodness, compassion, and expertise we as human beings bring we've also got some of the crappy stuff. When you remember this, when you remember who you are, you can allow your partner to be himself too -- without penalty.
In Imperfect Spirituality, relationship expert Terry Real puts it this way: "People really want Gods and Goddesses. We all want a free pass for our imperfections and yet we all want perfection in our mate. But, we are woefully imperfect human beings. If you find your God or Goddess, what would they want with you? You'll still be imperfect."
3. Give do-overs. One day, you're going to wake up, roll over, see that person in bed next to you and freak. You're eyes are going to slam open and your heart will race and you'll wonder how this became your life. Real relationships aren't always romantic and blissful and full of rainbows and unicorns. They are, however, full of people who do not wipe their feet, or eat asparagus. People who don't always say the right things and sometimes say the wrong ones. Those who prefer WWE to Iron Chef. They are full of different opinions and strategies and moods. But, those differences can be a hotbed for creativity and possibility and curiosity and fun -- if you allow for do-overs.
When things are a bit off-track and emotions are hot and high, take a breath and then ask for a do-over. Don't go back and rehash. Just start again from a better place. With a do-over you cut a little slack for yourself and others and move on in a kinder way, trusting that next time you'll both do better.
After all, you are committed to this idea of allowing each other to be just as you are. Right?