A few years ago I learned an important lesson that’s changed everything about happiness in my marriage. Marriage isn’t easy, but learning this truth definitely makes it easier!
With Valentine’s Day just a week away, I’ve had love and marriage on my mind a lot. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over my 8 years of marriage centers all around expectations: the ones we have for ourselves and the ones we have for our spouse.
Let me explain. A few years back, I found myself getting frustrated with my husband often. I felt like I was putting so much effort into making him happy, yet he didn’t seem to be doing the same thing. Which made me angry. Which then made everything he did annoying–or worse. He’d leave his socks on the floor and suddenly that tiny action felt like a personal attack, like his way of saying, “I don’t care about you.” It was miserable.
But the problem wasn’t with him. Not at all. He was (and is!) an amazing husband.
The problem was with me.
Through all this, I realized something important.
I felt like I was putting more effort into our marriage because I was judging myself based off of my intentions and judging my husband based off of his actions.
I think this is a problem in a lot of relationships because here’s the thing: We know the intent of our own hearts. We know our thoughts, our desires, the things we want to do but never get around to doing.
But all we know about others is their words and actions.
For instance, I knew that I thought about how much I loved my husband several times a day (even though I only told him once or twice). I knew I wanted to write him those “Open When” love letters (where you write a series of letters: one to open when you’re sad, one when you’re happy, one when you’re lonely, etc.)–even though I never did it. I intended to do it, so I was “a great wife putting a ton of effort into the marriage”.
I knew that I worried about him and wondered how I could make his day-to-day life easier, even though no forward motion was taken on those desires. Because I have a full-view of my love for him, I knew all this.
The Uneven Scale
But I’m unable to see these things from his point-of-view, so I was judging our love on an uneven scale.
Not only was it unfair, it was a pretty miserable way to live. The whole idea of tallying points in marriage is a bad idea to begin with, but when you throw in the fact that it’s impossible to tally evenly, it makes it even worse. Marriage isn’t a game, so why are we keeping score?
Now when my husband leaves his socks on the floor, I know it’s because he’s tired and just wants to sit on the couch. Duh! I know that even though he only tells me he loves me a couple times a day, he thinks it more. I know that just because he doesn’t do anything for me when I’m having a stressful day doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to or didn’t think about it or doesn’t want to make my load a little lighter. Of course he does! He’s my husband (and the most amazing one at that 😍!), but he’s also human. Just like me.
Just Do Your Best
At times I forget this truth and revert to my old way of thinking, but the important part is that I’m trying my best. I’m not a perfect spouse and I’m never going to be one. And there’s no way I’ll ever be able to do all things I want to do for him or to show him just how much I really love and care about him. I’ve got kids and a house and work and life that get in the way of that.
And so does he. But that doesn’t lessen our love or make our marriage less than. In fact, it sort of makes it beautiful.
So if you’re tallying points, stop. It’s never going to make you happy. And remember that you’re never going to be able to see the full picture behind your spouse. You’ll never be able to see all his thoughts and desires and intentions. And that’s okay. Get rid of that uneven scale and focus on your love. That’s the only way it’ll ever grow.
And if you mess up, it’s okay. Say, “I love you,” and try again. That’s the beauty of being human–learning and growing and messing up and trying again. It’s perfectly imperfect.
What’s something you’ve learned that’s strengthened your marriage?