I was gifted a book by Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, which gives a thought to contemplate for each day of the year and so I've been following it and I've gained great perspectives. Some days are better then others but today it prompted me to reflect on a concept that seems to be returning to my mind again and again lately.
Lately I have been striving to be more positive with my spouse and cease criticism of all kinds. I've been striving to keep my thoughts more positive as well and stop my negativity or my wishful dreaming of "if only"s or "why not"s away so I can welcome in more contentment. After all, Marjorie Pay Hinckley said more then once that to have a happy marriage, "lower your expectations" but as simple as it sounds, that's hard! It was until today's thoughts that I was more deeply able to understand what she meant.
I've never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I'm discovering that this is exactly what I have been doing to my husband. I think whenever anyone gets married they have some expectation about the way they assume marriage will be. It's not really something we can discuss beforehand very well because we honestly believe what we expect is a typical common sense way to envision of marriage. Then after married, we suddenly realize our spouse doesn't fit those expectations and also has his or her own that we don't fit perfectly into either.
There are things I always dreamed someone who "really loved me" would do without even trying - things I have desired so desperately and seem so simple to me, but don't come naturally to my own husband at all. Some of these expectations are so deeply desired that it's painful to let them go. I felt like my expectations should be easy and that I was entitled to want something from my husband like...simple courteous thoughtfulness. But I was wrong. Expressing how much I wish he would do these things doesn't seem to help either. It only enforced his feelings of inadequacy in our marriage as he continues to try so hard to please me in his own way.
In Beattie's book it says "expecting others to be perfect" is "destructive; it makes others feel ashamed and may interfere with their growth." (Emphasis added.) By expecting my husband to be great at these things that don't come naturally to him, I am actually making it harder for him to do those very things. Beattie goes on, "People are human and vulnerable, and that is wonderful. We can accept and cherish that idea. Expecting others to be perfect puts us in that codependent state of moral superiority." Of course we shouldn't tolerate anything abusive or destructive, "We can still expect appropriate responsible behavior..." but we must loosen up and let go of the expectations that we already know are causing unnecessary pain on both sides.
Further it read that "when we stop expecting others to be perfect, we may discover that they're doing much better than we thought." I have noticed as I strive to stop being so critical of my husband, and (painfully) let go of my (deeply) desired expectations, he has been able to progress and my eyes have been opened to see his progress. It feels so much better to let go of the negativity that has been a dead weight, bringing us both down.
My husband is a sweet man who loves me his way. His thought process doesn't dwell on sentimentality, the way mine does. There is both good and bad in my way too! And that's ok! We are both human and vulnerable and that is beautiful! So, I must let go of my expectation that my husband will be something he is not right now. I married him because of who he is, not who he isn't.
AND according to Donald L. Hallstrom's great talk in the Priesthood session last weekend entitled "What Manner of Men?", "Who we are is NOT who we can become!"
For some reason sometimes we feel like we aren't entitled to feel happy, like we have no right to happiness. But we are that we might have joy! We exist so we can choose happiness and let go of pain and sorrow from failed expectations, pride, or sin. Christ has allowed us to let all of that go and be joyful!
I must love and accept my husband just the way he is now and so he can become better, through Christ. I must believe he will, but allow myself right not to be content and happy, waiting upon the Lord, and loving a good man.