Did I marry “the right one?” There can be times in marriage when that question races across your mind like a streaker running across a football field. It can happen when you’re having that same old fight for the umpteenth time. It can happen when the two of you disagree on what’s fun and what’s boring. It can happen when your goals for the future don’t line up. It can happen when the differences between you and your spouse has you grinding your teeth.
It’s during these out-of-sync-times that spouses begin to wonder, “Did I marry the right one?” For some couples, the longer they’re married the more the question pops up. They try to beat the question back, as if they were playing a game of marital whack-a-mole, but no matter what they do, the question keeps coming up.
I see it in my counseling office. A spouse comes in because they’re struggling in their marriage and they’re starting to wonder if they married the wrong person. Or a spouse who is fed up and ready for a divorce comes in convinced they simply married the wrong person.
Now I believe that people can make poor choices when it comes to picking a mate. Face it…it’s easy for people to ignore red flags when they’re in luuuuvvvvv. I’ve seen it in premarital counseling when I raise concerns, and the couple quickly dismisses and waives off my concerns with a love-conquers-all mentality.
But even though I believe people can make poor choices in choosing a spouse, I’m not sure I completely agree with the idea that a marriage fails because one or the other person was not the “right one.”
To be brutally honest, none of us are the “right one” for our spouse. We all have our flaws and our foibles. We all do things that drive a spouse crazy. (Just ask my wife about my tendencies to crunch ice and watch endless reruns of superhero movies and “The Big Bang Theory.”) We all have past experiences and hurts that rise up and inflict themselves unknowingly on our spouse. We all have been raised in ways that are different than our spouse’s up-bringing.
So none of us are the “right one” for our spouse. We all come into marriage as “fixer-upers.” One of the purposes of marriage is to grow us and shape us into the person we need to be. (And we thought the purpose of marriage was just to make us happy. Surprise!)
So, since we’re all fixer-uppers, it’s probably more correct to say a marriage fails not because one spouse was not the “right one,” but rather because one or both spouses failed to become the “right one.” The “right one” is not something we are, but something we become.
Yes there are things about our spouse that are frustrating and maybe even wrong, but the problem comes when we make it our mission to fix our “fixer-upper” spouse, as if they were some sort of renovation project on HGTV. Trying to renovate our “fixer-upper” spouse so they will be the “right one” is not only a poor and prideful endeavor, it’s also disrespectful and insulting to our spouse.
So what do we do? We follow Michael Jackson’s advice and take a look at the man (or woman) in the mirror. We pour our efforts and energies into becoming the “right one” for our spouse. It’s amazing how much our spouse will change when we stop trying to renovate them and start renovating ourselves. Even if we feel we’re like Mary Poppins and “practically perfect in every way,” there are still things about you and me that need to change.
So where do we start…
- We start with the things we already know we should do different. We may not have admitted it to anyone (and certainly not to our spouse,) but there are things we already know we need to change. It may be an attitude, a perspective, a habit, or an approach. Whatever it is, we need to start there.
- Next, we look at some of the complaints our spouse has made about us. Their complaints may not be entirely valid and we may disagree with their complaints, but we need to suspend our defensiveness and ask ourselves, “Is there even a nugget of truth in what they’re saying?” If so, we need to work on that. It would be good for us and them if we would admit where they’re right, but whether we admit it or not, we need to change the thing they’re right about.
These two things are enough to get us started. If we would do just these two things, here’s what we’ll begin to notice…
- First, we’ll be too busy to focus on the things about them that need to change.
- Second, our changed behavior will facilitate a change in the relationship and make it easier for them to make changes they need to make.
And don’t worry about whether your spouse will follow suit and make changes. If we make the changes we need to make, we become better people. That’s a good thing no matter who we’re married to.
Here’s the challenge. You don’t have to do this all at once. Pick just one thing about yourself that needs to change. It may be something you you already know, or it may be something that your spouse has pointed out. But pick just one thing, and spend one month working on it. Then, at the end of that month, step back and see if it has made any difference…in you or in your spouse. Then consider leaving a comment and let us know how it went for you. It could encourage someone else.
Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg