The one thing that will destroy any relationship
It was our first year of marriage, and I was huddled in the corner of our bedroom, hot tears running down my cheeks. Cal tried to open the door, but I wouldn't let him, crying that I just needed to be alone. I wish I could assure you that I had every right to be so upset that I couldn't even let him enter, but I can't.
I don't remember exactly what had me filled with silent anger and unprovoked drama that morning, but I do know that there was a theme that snaked throughout our first year of marriage, like red yarn connecting one wound to the next. I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you, but what it boils down to was this:
My new husband didn't live up to my expectations.
(Ouch. That hurt to admit out loud.)
I had watched enough Hollywood to know exactly how marriage should be: a spouse who could read my mind, someone who would constantly make me laugh, tell me that I'm strong and beautiful and witty and wise, a man who surprised me *at least* every other day with a lavish date night, read his bible daily (or multiple times a day for extra points), a leader that everyone looked up to, someone who could plan exotic adventures, and the list goes on, and on, and on....
Don't get me wrong. Cal is so many things. He is loyal and kind and disciplined and steadfast and rooted and funny and caring and a darn good husband. But he doesn't encompass that list, and I don't think he ever will. But I didn't know that when I married him, or maybe I just didn't want to realize that I couldn't make him into the exact person I wanted him to be.
So I over-compensated by trying to control him. I gave him "loving" suggestions of "how to grow".
Don't you want to do it this way? or I feel loved when you do ______ became my mantra in those early months. I would sometimes become demanding, calling him out on ways that he "did it all wrong". And it hurt our marriage. The more I pushed him into a non-existent version of him (or anyone else's) self, the more he retreated.
Cal recently told me that I was exhausting to be around during those first moments of marriage. It stung, but I understood. I WAS difficult. Not fully aware of what I was doing, I had picked all the good pieces from any marriage I had ever seen, and used them to create a fairy tale.
I don't think I'm alone in this.
I can't count the number of women I've talked to who have a mile long list of all the attributes that they want in their future mate. Some women have over a hundred (!) traits that they are looking for in a spouse. I'm not saying that if you're single you should just settle for anyone, but I do think that we have started to misunderstand the meaning of "settling". Knowing *exactly* what we want (and not one thing less!) builds expectations so high that the wall starts to crush our relationships. It's here that we subconsciously turn inwardly to tick off all the items on our list where our "needs" aren't being met. It's in this space that comparison blooms and discontent festers. And what ruminates in our heads will eventually seep out of our mouths.
Explaining to a spouse how you feel loved is good. He/she can't read your mind, and spoiler alert- they are a completely different person with completely different needs than you. But when the list of wants and needs only continues to grow, we would be wise to take a step back.
Continually pointing our spouses back to ourselves is quite possibly one of the most harmful things in marriage because pushing them towards us can ultimately push them away from the Holy Spirit.
The more I nag and continue to fill Cal's ear with my requests, the less clearly he is able to hear from the Holy Spirit. The more I try to mold Cal into MY image, the less he is able to be formed into the Creator's. And the more I voice my discontent over his perceived "failures", the less he is able to focus on his strengths.
My voice should not be the one directing my husband. That job is for the Holy Spirit, and Him alone.
In the Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes “...To fall in love (means) to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”
Being apart of who God is making Cal to be means to take a step back and let him bloom under the guidance of the Spirit. Instead of encouraging Cal to pay attention to my every need and fill my every desire, I should be nudging him towards the only One who will fill him. And vice versa. Because ultimately Cal is never going to be the one who makes me content or full of joy. He certainly does bring me joy and I am grateful every. single. day that he is my husband, but I should never be looking to him to fill my every need OR desire. Because at the end of the day, even if I could weave together all the attributes that make a "perfect" husband, that would never quench my thirst.
I'm not my husband's keeper nor is he mine. It's not either of our jobs to lead the other to our own perceived ideas of perfection. It's our job to lead each other to the Holy Spirit, and let Him do the life molding and heart changing. After all, I'm not very good at that.