What started as a fairy tale, turned into a nightmare when I realized that my husband, John, didn’t complete me.
The marriage didn’t meet my every need or take away my struggles, insecurities, or loneliness. Marriage helped in these areas, but ultimately, I am responsible for my growth. John didn’t complete me, and that isn’t his job. We are two complete people; we are just better together.
Waking up to reality, I learned three things that dramatically improved our marriage!
But it took me a while to figure this out. Like every girl, I grew up on the fairy tale. Boy meets girl, falls madly in love, and they live happily ever after! (Insert record scratch here!) Life is not a fairytale and couples who not only love each other but like each other have figured out some things.
Waking up to reality, I learned three things that dramatically improved our marriage! Embracing them resulted in fewer arguments, less stress, and more fun as we enjoy each other more.
1. He can’t read my mind.
The movie Inside Out has a scene that illustrates this truth in living color! Picture this: Dad, Mom and teenage daughter, Riley, are eating dinner together when her teenage hormones take over. Mom picks up on the nonverbal cues and tries to figure out what is going on, while signaling Dad, who seems lost in thought, to pay attention and engage. Dad’s eyes grow big as he has no idea what she is trying to communicate with “the look” and scrambles to say something helpful.
Every woman I know resonated when the scene shifted to offer a glimpse into Mom’s inner world–mind, thought, and emotions central–a panel of women who were dumbfounded that Dad wasn’t getting the clear messages Mom was sending. Dad and his central command men were oblivious at first, scrambled to figure out what “the look” meant, and were completely confused how they had missed the message. Meanwhile, the teenager stomped away angry and upset.
If you haven’t seen the movie, this simple scene resonates with anyone who has ever given or gotten the look!
Husbands, the honest truth is that we want you to read our minds; it would be easier. My husband, John, is relieved he can’t read my mind, especially given that I need a closet organizer just for my thoughts. John is grateful I have to filter my thoughts, ideas, feelings, and then share them in a coherent manner!
We had lived through that same scene, in 3D with our three teenagers, more times than I can count. During one tense discussion about curfews, I shot John “the look” that clearly said, “Back me up here.” He didn’t read my mind. Instead, he commented. “Well, I had a later curfew as a teen, and I think you are being bit strict.”
As fireworks shot from my eyes, I cleared my throat hoping to get his attention and telepathically communicate that he was “supposed to” support the curfew I set up. (Even though we didn’t discuss it and I had jumped the gun. Of course I was sorry, and if John had read my mind, he would know all this, and back me up.) Mind reading is not a superpower our husbands possess and the sooner we learn that, the better.
2. He doesn’t want to be my best girlfriend.
Learning this relieved a lot of pressure and tension in our marriage. John didn’t want to hear everything I was thinking and feeling. He didn’t need or want to discuss situations about our kids, family, inlaws–or any subject–to the nth degree, and then circle back in case we missed something. Nope, he was far more interested in the bullet points, the cliff notes, the “husband version.”My best friend and I can talk for hours, filling in details, offering commentary and insights on any topic. We can shop for hours, binge-watch Netflix, pour over magazines with the same interest and enthusiasm that we bring to conversations. John loves my best girlfriend, because she lets him off the hook from doing all these things. Once I learned that John didn’t want to be my best girlfriend, I got busy enjoying and appreciating him as my best man friend and husband!
3. He doesn’t want to do everything together.
Even the most extroverted, involved, engaging husband wants time alone and away from you, his lovely bride. He might want to spend it with the guys, the kids, his parents or even by himself. This is NOT a rejection of you. Embracing this will save you both from driving each other crazy.
We learned to communicate more effectively about our wants and needs.
Guys do guy stuff. They like guy movies, laugh at jokes we roll our eyes at; they need some space free of coasters, pillows, tchotchkes, and girls! I am not trying to be sexist. I am simply stating that there are things wives are wise to avoid.
Life got easier, and our relationship got better when I learned that my husband’s desire for alone time had little to do with me. It was about his wants and needs. Now, when he watches the game alone in his man cave, goes to a ballgame with the guys, or sits on the terrace and enjoys a cigar in peace and quiet, I simply call my girlfriend and talk about it with her.
Learning these three lessons dramatically improved our marriage. We stopped feeling pressure to be everything to each other, and to do everything together. We learned to communicate more effectively about our wants and needs. We each other grace and space and enjoy each other more as our relationship grows stronger. “You don’t have to complete me,” is a far more loving and realistic statement. Try it and see what happens!
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