Comfortably Uncomfortable

We all want to be comfortable. We want comfortable chairs, comfortable shoes, comfortable beds, comfortable clothes, comfortable retirements…comfortable everything.

We especially want comfortable marriages. We want marriages that are calm, happy, and easy. We want spouses who like what we like, act like we act, and always think we’re wonderful. We also want to win the lottery, but that’s probably not going to happen either.

Marriage is never completely comfortable. It is always a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable. Because of that, you’re marriage will either be uncomfortably comfortable or comfortably uncomfortable.

A Marriage That is Uncomfortably Comfortable.

This is when there are things going on in the marriage that are detrimental to the marriage, but you force yourself to accept them because you don’t want the fallout from rocking the boat.

An example of this might be a husband who is consistently angry and demeaning toward his wife. His wife has learned what she can and can’t say to keep him from blowing up. She’s learned what hoops to jump through to keep the peace. And if none of that works, she’s learned to avoid him. The wife doesn’t like living marriage this way, but it’s more comfortable than stirring things up. She’s settled for being uncomfortably comfortable.

Another example of this might be a wife who is overly critical of her husband. She’s quick to tell him what he’s done wrong and what he should have done differently. Her husband feels defeated and disrespected, but when he tries to speak up for himself he is verbally out-gunned. So he learns to be quiet and go with the flow. He would like for things to be different, but the heat of the confrontation is too much to think about, so he settles for being uncomfortably comfortable.

The problem with a marriage that is uncomfortably comfortable is that it’s a sure road to a dead marriage. The marriage may die suddenly and quickly when one spouse has had enough. The marriage may die slowly and gradually until the kids are gone and there’s not enough life or love to hold it together on its own. Or the marriage may stay together on the outside, but be dead on the inside. Either way, uncomfortably comfortable will put a toe tag on your marriage.

A Marriage That is Comfortably Uncomfortable.

This is when there are thing going on in the marriage that really irritate you personally, but these things are not detrimental to the marriage. So you learn to live with the personal annoyance in order to enjoy the marriage.

Here’s an example from my marriage. I’m a guy that is pretty transparent. I will tell you about stupid and embarrassing things I’ve done and not think anything about it. This drives my wife crazy, because she likes to keep her cards close to the vest. She thinks things through before she says them and is more apt to not say something than to say it. Consequently, she tends to think I’m too over-the-top and I tend to think she’s too reserved. Despite this, our marriage is good…not because we’ve been able to change those things about each other, but because we’ve learned to be comfortably uncomfortable with our differences.

A marriage that is comfortably uncomfortable is a marriage where spouses have learned to to grow closer and thrive, even though they drive each other crazy at times.

Talk to any couple that has been married fifty years or longer and you will hear them talk about the things that still frustrate them about one another. But they will also talk about how thankful they are to have each other. This is comfortably uncomfortable.

One day, in the nursing home, I’ll be trying to get my wife to open up and she’ll be trying to get me to shut up. But we’ll be doing it together. Comfortably uncomfortable.

Take a good look at your marriage.  Are there things going on in your marriage that are detrimental to the marriage, but you’ve learned to get uncomfortably comfortable with them? Or are these things just personally irritating to you and you need to be comfortably uncomfortable? If you’re not sure which is which, try talking to someone who’s been married a long time. They can help you see the difference.

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg 

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