This week we talk about appreciating your spouse and letting go of all of those ridiculous fantasy expectations. Thanks for listening!
I am constantly seeing different posts on Facebook about the kind of man we ought to marry or the kind we ought to wait for or the kind we deserve. The hypothetical creatures that are described in these memes will supposedly do everything from standing in the rain with us to making us breakfast in bed to pampering us when we’re having our period. They will call us “darling” and apologize even when we’re wrong and will treat us like a child when we want them to and like a grown up when we want them to. They’ll hold us when we cry and hold us when we are throwing a fit and hold us when we are being a spoiled brat. They will give us money for whatever we want. They will never question us. They will rub our feet and warm our towel in the dryer during the hot bath that they drew for us. They will greet us with roses on a regular basis, and they will always, most definitely, understand all the inner workings of our mind. And, if they don’t, then they will acknowledge their idiocy and our brilliance.
I’m not really sure how these things keep getting passed around, or why so many women seem to feel that men like this exist. And, I suppose the bigger question is: why would you want a man like this? The make-believe figures that keep making the rounds on social media sound to me like husbands who will in no way challenge you or help you to grow as a person. Do we REALLY want men who are so afraid of us that they would never question us? Do we really believe that we are so privileged or perfect that we never need questioning?
Are these the men that single women are really waiting for? Are married women really convinced that posting such things will motivate their husbands to be different?
I’m so confused.
Here’s the truth. Men are human beings, just like women are human beings. But, we have let silly movies and fantasies lead us to believe that the REALLY good men are different. That they spend their entire day dreaming up ways to pamper us. We fool ourselves into thinking that the really good men leave love notes and wash dishes and plan elaborate trips and show up with diamonds they can’t afford. We live in our chick flick haze and we get upset when our really good men go to work and play with the kids and mow the yard and make sure the tires on our cars are okay. We are dissatisfied when our really good men sit on the couch and watch football. We just don’t feel special enough when our really good men smile across the room because, you know, no flowers, no chocolates, no handmade book of memories, no rose petal paths to anyplace.
It’s just getting absurd. You want to know if you have a REALLY good man? Here’s a test for you. Does he love God? Does he love you? Does he work hard? Does he come home? Does he love your children? If so, then you’ve got a good one.
I remember one night many years ago. Chad came home late, and it had snowed. Our normally ugly rundown little neighborhood was covered in a beautiful, clean blanket of glittery white snow. He came to the door, and he was flushed and looked freezing. I could tell he was excited. He led me out the front door of our little house, and I stood on the porch and read the words he had stamped into the snow with his now soaked tennis shoes: Chad loves Melissa. It was a sweet, sincere, spur-of-the-moment expression of his love.
And, I wasn’t satisfied with it.
I wondered why he put so little effort into showing his care for me. I had been duped into believing that really good men make showy, elaborate, breath-taking statements of their love. And, because I was so determined that that meant money spent and plans made well in advance, I missed, in that moment, the beauty of the showy, elaborate, breath-taking statement that he had stamped out in our snowy front yard in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry. I see it now.
Please, please, dear wives and women who are waiting: Don’t miss the really good man who is right in front of you because you are too focused on the imaginary men that you have read about in books or seen in movies. Not every day has to be a fairy tale. Some days are all paying bills and buying dog food and eating leftovers. Some days are all annoying habits and not enough sleep. Some days are better and some are worse. But, we promised to stick close through both types of days. And, we should never, ever lose our wonder at the miracle of living life together.
If we will only learn to appreciate our really good men for who they are what they do, then one day, when they leave the last Oreo for us or when they make sure our car registration is up to date or when they wink at us across a crowded room, we’ll remember that real romance is so much more than diamonds and whatever Nicholas Sparks dreams up. The really good men deserve better than our constant criticism and dissatisfaction. The grass isn’t greener in chick flick land. It’s astroturf. Stick to your own yard, where your really good man is probably mowing. That’s true romance.
Recently I ran across this idea of marriage:
…If your neighbors are not envying your relationship you should re-examine, refresh and relaunch it. If your single friends and relatives are not longing for your kind of marriage, something is wrong.
Sounds good, right?
Except that it is completely unrealistic and is actually harmful to married people. Well-intended ideas like this have led millions of men and women to decide that their perfectly normal marriage is bad. Could I please reveal a few truths about marriage?
Did you know that when people get married they still have to go to the bathroom? Totally true! Not very romantic!
Married people get sick.
Married people have bills to pay.
Married people have to go to jobs that take up the majority of their time in this life.
Married people get schooled by tantrum throwing toddlers.
Married people experience childbirth together. And it’s not all blood-free and clean and funny like it is on TV. It’s scary. And it hurts. And afterward there is a crying baby. For months.
Which reminds me: Married people are short on sleep.
Married people get annoyed by each other.
Married people sometimes reconvene at the end of the day in a messy house, with no clean underwear, too tired to even muster a “How was your day?”
All of this happens in happy, normal, well-adjusted, sweet, loving marriages.
We have gotten it into our heads that marriage should be a total mountain top experience at all times or it’s just a doomed failure. But, there are times when life is crazy and the two of you are just trying to survive the chaos.
Marriage also goes through lots of phases. There are the we’re-cohabitating-and-not-killing-each-other phases. In solid, strong, healthy marriages.
It’s so sad that we have let Oprah’s relationship experts and 20 year old girls on Facebook and romantic movies convince us that the only kind of love that’s acceptable is the one that has all the neighbors envying you. The truth is, we could all put on lots of “marriage shows” that convince people we are a certain way. In fact, I know people who’ve done it. Everyone was certainly shocked when they filed for divorce. But, follow any couple, even the greatest couple you know, for a few days, see every interaction they have with one another, and you will see what is really beautiful about marriage.
It takes a lot of forgiving.
It takes a lot of overlooking glaring faults.
It takes a lot of work and perseverance when the mountaintop isn’t even visible.
And, when you do that, when you work hard at it and love and honor and build trust and hold fast during the worst times, some people may notice and think you have a good marriage. But, I wouldn’t count on it.
Because in the real world, marriage looks like two people dealing with lots of unpleasant stuff together. It doesn’t have to look effortless. That’s not our goal. It doesn’t have to look enviable.
It’s about doing what you said you would do, no matter what.
If you do that long enough, people will notice. But, your marriage isn’t broken if it doesn’t look like a Nicholas Sparks romance every day. Let the neighbors envy the pretend marriages they see on TV. In you, just let them see that you are loving with all your might, even if that love takes the form of cleaning vomit out of the back of the minivan.
In my world, that’s true love. Jealous?