Five years into our marriage I would have told you that it might have been a sad mistake, but there were three little beings involved and we loved them very much. After ten years I would have had many complaints, and a feeling of incompatibility. By 15 years there were MANY “little things” I couldn’t stand, and a sense of despair. At year 20 I truly felt we were coming to an inevitable end.
Seeing this meme today reminded me that although it was a good reminder to actively show love to my husband, and constantly be grateful for what we have now, there were many, many times I allowed the “little things” to also get in the way of happiness and fulfillment.
As I look back now, it was the “little things” that I allowed to carve my negativity and hopelessness into a major downhill slide:
- The way he loaded the dishwasher… yes, I HAD to rearrange everything, and I let it frustrate me to the point of anger towards him. But… He loaded the dishwasher.
- The way he wouldn’t hold my hand, or touch me any more than “necessary.”
- How he wouldn’t engage in “debates” or arguments. He artfully avoided most controversies, and at time just capitulated to avoid a fight.
- The way he doesn’t seem to make the bed “pretty.” He LOVES a made bed. I was a brat in our early years. I didn’t care if the bed got made. He’d come home after a long day at work, go to change out of his suit, and voila, the bed would be made. Grrrr. Just hours before we’d “un-make it.” I’d think bitterly. I couldn’t even get my head around the fact that the sight of a made bed and an organized home was peace-inducing after his day in the crazy rat race. It was such a little thing, and I was always last out of the bed.
- The way he would fall asleep on the couch by 9:00, and then would retire for the night.
- There was the great parenting divide, and it was the accumulation of “little things” that made it a bigger deal, our great “lightening rod.” I was methodical, I had schedules, and made the chore charts–to help “our” kids become contributing members of the family. He didn’t want to get into toe-to-toe battles with our little shirkers… so he’d do “their jobs:” clean up the dishes after dinner, take out the trash, clean the cat box. Grrrr. That’s NOT what I wanted!!! Whatever. Let him clean up… I still resented that the kids loved him for this. “General Mom” felt undermined.
And the “little things” I patently ignored:
- The lawn got mowed, no matter how stinking hot it was out there. Never mind that I HATED the heat and I hated the creepy things involved with yard work and he saved me from this. I took it for granted since I always thought we could hire someone as all the other neighbors did…
- The cars “magically” had oil changed and regular maintenance. For a time in the beginning, I never thought about my gas gauge… the tank was always filled.
- The kids got bathed, read to, sang to, played with, and tucked in by him almost every night. He insisted that I needed a break from my day-to-day Mom duties. Of course I cherished this time as well, especially when they were very little… but he built amazing relationships with our kids.
- Since his work schedule was earlier than mine, he began driving our tired, snarky, “entitled” teens to high school daily, often stopping for donuts or other treats… despite the fact we were on the bus route. Again, I worried he was spoiling them (he was building an awesome relationship with them).
- I could go on and on. He did so many little “kind” things that I completely ignored, sometimes purposefully in an effort to “hurt him back” and often just because I was selfish and self-absorbed.
I know that I let the little things get in the way in our marriage. I was so hung up on seeing things done “my way” that I couldn’t see any other way. I couldn’t see there could be a new way, “our way.” And peace-loving and kind husband that he is, he just kept doing the nice things. Admittedly the meaner I got, the more I continued in my lack of appreciation, there were fewer nice gestures from him. But he never wavered in holding the high ground…
Except at night when we hugged the sides of our huge bed, and hardly ever touched one another, or had a kind, encouraging or loving word for the other. The feeling of being unloved was strong, as I was so blinded to his love language: acts of service. All of the love we had was poured into our children.
It makes me sad to admit all this, because for most who knows me, I’m a very kind, loving, and giving person by nature. SJ probably would have been able to say some of the things he appreciated from me. He liked that I cooked well, took good care of the kids, decorated our home with my sewing and craft skills, entertained people, was kind to his family, was well-respected in our church where I stayed very active in volunteer activities, was smart enough to carry on an intelligent conversation, cared about my appearance, makeup, clothes, hair… I wasn’t a total bitch, truly I wasn’t… most of the time! From the start, there were definitely some problems that we both can take the blame for, with this marriage between two very independent 30-somethings used to living alone and making their own rules… but I allowed the frustration to turn to anger, disdain, despair, and hate.
God took me through this period of despair in my marriage for some reason I’ll never fully understand.
And, just as I was about to give up and to pitch it all, God yanked me back from the edge of destruction and misery–for a reason I’ll never fully understand, because I certainly did not deserve His Mercy.
First and foremost, I read 1 Corinthians 13 with new eyes:
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
I was painfully aware that I was very, very far from perfect: undeserving of happiness, love, joy. There’s this part of my childhood that fed into that feeling of unworthiness. And I continued to mirror the model of disdain I saw growing up. A parent who ALWAYS kept records of wrong. You could never be good enough to make up for what you did wrong yesterday, or might do wrong tomorrow.
My stubborn heart finally saw a better way, the best way: Love.
A love that keeps no record of wrongs, a love that is not self-seeking, easily angered, a love that hopes and perseveres.
I thank God for a new heart in my marriage:
- A heart to begin to appreciate all the little things SJ does for me, for us, for our family.
- A heart to intentionally speak my appreciation and thanks to SJ.
- A heart to be an encourager.
- A heart to look first and foremost for the blessing in every situation.
- A heart to take nothing for granted.
- A heart to consider how I can be a blessing, a joy, and a helpmeet to him.
- A heart to trust him to be my leader-husband, and to know what’s best for us.