Marriage is hard. There are so many hurting spouses out there. I hear it from both men and women. My husband and I have certainly been guilty of hurting each other over the years.
Before we get married, we usually have stars in our eyes and butterflies in our stomachs at the mere mention of our spouse’s name. Couples often dote on each other during their courtships, cherishing the moments spent together, going out of their way to make the other feel special and loved. It may be unrealistic for that level of romance to continue after the reality of bills, children, lack of sleep, responsibility, household tasks, life circumstances, and even loss or tragedy are in place but it is shocking how quickly those feelings can change.
It is far too easy for one or both people to slip into taking the other for granted. Lack of appreciation robs a marriage of intimacy, steals joy, dampers love. It is the basis for many resentments.
Resentments are like a cancer. They build up and can turn into things far more dangerous like feelings of anger, hatred and even thoughts of divorce. It is difficult for anyone to feel loved or respected when they feel unappreciated and are full of resentment.
My husband and I were having a conversation on the weekend, ironically about a couple we know going through a divorce and the talk turned to our observation that many of the divorced couples we know now treating each other better than they did when they were married. They have realized that in order to co-parent, they need to find ways to communicate effectively and be respectful to each other and this translates into sometimes even becoming friends. We were talking about how it’s sad that couples aren’t able to do this first and thus, stay married.
As we talked, I had a revelation. I have noticed that I treat complete strangers better than I treat my own husband. I have justified this sometimes in thinking that my husband also treats strangers better than he treats me or that strangers aren’t around all the time and I can’t be on my best behaviour all the time or that strangers don’t irritate me (!) or that I get to really be myself around my husband. But the revelation that I had on Sunday has changed the way I look at my husband and the way I treat him. On the off chance that it also resonated with you, I am sharing it today.
If there were a stranger that went to work every day and worked hard without complaint and then used all of his earnings to take care of my children and I, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him. I would be so grateful. I would have no words to convey my appreciation.
When I shared this thought with my husband on Sunday, his response to me was this…
“If I had a Nanny and she took care of the house and my kids without being paid, I would come home at the end of the day and appreciate what she did. I would never complain about what wasn’t done. I would be eternally grateful.”
Why aren’t we treating each other that way? Across from me sits the man I pledged my life to, the man I have 7 children with, the man who goes to work every day for me. Why would I criticize him? Why would I take him for granted? If I were to treat my own husband like I would treat a stranger who sacrificed for me the way this man sacrifices for me, he would feel respected, appreciated and adored.
Last night, The Husband emailed to ask if I could drive our second oldest to Driver Training because he had to work late. I’m going to be really honest here and admit that had that email come a week ago, I would have been annoyed. I would have thought about myself and how his working late makes my day so much harder.
Yesterday, I saw it for what it was. This man was working hard for us. We are a team. I packed the kids up, drove my son to Driver Training, went through a drive-through and got some supper and an iced coffee for The Husband, and delivered it to his office with a kiss and a thank you for working so hard for us. He was surprised and thankful.
Perhaps today, you can consider how you would treat a stranger who was making sacrifices for you and respond to your spouse accordingly. See past what you want them to be and what you want them to be doing and see instead what they are doing. Let me know if this change in mindset helps you see your spouse differently. It has made a big difference in my marriage this week.