A friend and I were recently in an honest dialogue about relationships. She’s engaged and I’m married. The following phrase came out of her mouth: “I wish sometimes that he was ‘more’…” and you can fill in the blanks with whatever it is you wish your significant other was more of because we all have those thoughts. And then the transparency, “sometimes I wonder if I should have chosen someone else.”
You know what I felt when she said that? Relief. Relief that someone else spoke those words. Because even in my most vulnerable conversations with some of my closest girlfriends, I’m scared to death to admit that those thoughts have entered my mind– especially when my husband and I are at our weakest points together. An engagement, a marriage– the conversations surrounding those should all be filled with nothing but strong words of commitment and never any doubt, right? But holy crap it happens. Why? Because there are always the thoughts of “what if”.
Maybe I shouldn’t say “always” and “we all have these thoughts” because maybe that’s simply isn’t true. My friend and I that I’m referring to here are similar with our emotional states, though. When we hurt, we hurt a lot; and when we hope, we hope for a lot. We set ourselves up for high expectations to be met on a regular basis. And of course to our own faults, these expectations are things we simply expect other people to know about, instead of communicating them clearly. So then we end up dragging our significant others into quicksand and stepping all over each other to claw our way out into air that we can breathe in again. And the bruises that ensue from the struggle to survive don’t always heal right away so every time they’re poked, we’re reminded again of the disappointment and the desire to be bruise-free.
My husband and I had recently come out of one of our quicksand struggles. In fact, it was probably more like trying to escape quicksand in the middle of a hurricane. It was tough, the rain was beating down and drowning us, we were choking on sand so couldn’t communicate efficiently and instead of working together to find a way to survive, we were both self-serving and didn’t care about protecting the other. By being so focused on our own agenda, we were consistently cutting and bruising the other without a total awareness (or honestly, without much of a care in the midst of the worst of it) of each other’s mental, emotional and physical state.
What that resulted in was an intense explosion that shook our home. The good news was, the explosion shot us out of the quicksand and forced us to face each other once again. Lying on the ground, completely bare, and desperate to do anything to be able to stand together once again… those moments inflict a pain so deep that every single fiber in your body feels like it’s on fire and you wonder for a moment if you’re not burning alive… but they can be the most critical to succeeding in the most important worldly relationship you have.
So when my friend and I were talking, it was only 3 days after my husband and I had succeeded in our most recent trial, and I had been mulling over some thoughts ever since that I was able to share with her as well:
If he was “more” of whatever it was I thought I wanted out of him, I wouldn’t be able to feel the pride I feel when I see his growth, and my growth, and our growth as a couple. I wouldn’t be able to stand taller when I see us effortlessly helping each other climb over obstacles that once were difficult for us. I wouldn’t be challenged to figure out how to communicate better or to be more intentional with the words I speak. If he was “more”, I would probably be bored with someone already reaching their peak and not getting to experience these changes and successes throughout life. And I wouldn’t feel like my definition of love is being refined and enhanced every single day.
Mostly, if my goal in this world is to work to be more Christlike so I can stand in front of my heavenly Father someday with as little shame of the life I lived as possible, my relationship with my husband is going to be the relationship that helps me get there more than any other. Sure, it can be argued that your kids will test you as much as or more than your husband. But it’s a different sort of love with my child. Maybe it’s just the way of society today, but it doesn’t feel as “optional”. My child is half of me and that’s something that can never be changed; when I married my husband, it’s a decision that I choose every single day to stay committed to.
Sometimes it takes recommitting to the reasons I married him in the first place. And telling him those reasons. My husband is handsome, brilliant, kind-hearted, deeply layered, loving, athletic, motivated, and so much more… all these things I told him in the midst of our recovery, and I realized I need to verbally express my appreciation for those traits more, especially when it’s the hardest to compliment someone for who they are because it’s the last thing you selfishly want to do.
Essentially, I’m learning to love the most when I want to do it the least.
Now instead of looking at him and saying “I wish you were more…”, I’m looking at our trials and being wowed by how it’s making ME more ______ (fill in the blank) and how as a couple, we are learning more every single day about what it means to have a Christlike love.