“Because finally, despite a child’s scars Or an adult’s deepest wounds, They are openly free to be Who they really are- and always secretly were, In the very core of their being Where true and lasting love can alone abide.”James Kavanaugh
As my husband and I just celebrated out first anniversary of marriage, I have been reflecting a lot on this past year and the love shared, the hurdles faced, and the personal and joint growth that took place. When I think of this year, two primary things that I have learned come to mind. One – I am selfish and Two – marriage is HARD work. I wish I could have told you this before, and chances are I could, but it would not have been the full honest and raw reality of just how deep this goes.
After the wedding and honeymoon, my husband and I rode the high of newly weds, basking in the limelight of stories from the wedding, tales from the honeymoon, and fawning over the pictures. This lasted for around… a month. (HAH quite the record, am I right?) But then something happened. Our disagreements became more intense, our expectations of each other soaring to unreachable heights that lead to repeated arguments, both of us chasing our own tails as we tried desperately to be heard, to be right, and to change the view of the other. Have you ever had these types of disagreements with your spouse? Where you feel so exhausted from the haunting of arguments past, just wanting to make something right out of something thing that feels so uncomfortable? After a rather immature spat with my husband triggered by what now seems like nothing, I took some time to reflect. What the heck is going on? Why are we having such emotionally charged discussions over what seems like nothing? When did what time I wake up become an issue, when did the way the dishwasher is loaded become a crisis, when did looking at a cellphone become the ammunition needed to start world war three!? And then it hit me – these expectations of each other are rooted in selfishness.
We were forcing each other to see the most gruesome sides of one another and it hurt, and is uncomfortable. At the end of the day, we were (imagine this) acting as our own individual person with our own habits and characteristics and not behaving the same way as the other. Our expectations and faulting of each other for not behaving as we ourselves do is rooting in such selfishness. Our love for each other got misguided in the expectation that now that we are one, “you get to be just like me!”
When I sat back and reflected on the intense character flaw that selfishness is, slowly allowing myself to come to terms with the fact that I am not the flawless, perfect, all knowing being that I have always referenced myself as (HAH), I started to wonder where all of these defects came from. How along the way did I become so rigid, so set in the “I’m right/I know the best way” mindset, so “my perfection is a gift to my husband so that he can learn all of my ways and therefore himself become perfect”.
I decided to hit the books and start seeking answers to make sense of this all. I found a book called Irritating The Ones You Love by Dr. Jeff Auerbach. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, especially if you were ever a child at one point in time and then later on became an adult. Dr. Auerbach explains how these skewed expectations that we develop are rooted in our childhood due to “childhood bruises” we experience, and makes an argument for how we seem to pick partners that in some way reflect similar characteristics of our parents. Dr. Auerbach explains that as children, our goal is to master skills, and when we have certain bruises caused by trauma, intense experiences, or general characteristics of our parents, we either seek partners that will trigger our hurt spots so that we can continue a fight we never were permitted with our parent, or we embody the “bruise” and develop those same character defects as our parents. Lucky for me and my husband, the “bruises” I embodied are the exact ones he has been trying to master, and he for mine! As I am sitting there reading this book, it all starts to make sense… this is why these small things have been issues, this is why we keep having the same arguments, and this is why nothing seems to be changing!
This brings me to my second point. Marriage is WORK. Coming to terms with my own selfishness and root of characteristics has brought sweet, sweet relief in normalizing some of the concerns we had, but that is only the beginning. Every day we work on recognizing the impact of this and make a conscious decision to allow ourselves to be humbled in love to come to each other willing to work on our own mess and help with each others.
This is not always an easy feat, but as I just said to my husband on our anniversary, it is always worth it. All good things require work. For us, that work includes seeking help from God as we reflect accurately and humbly asking for our short comings to be removed, communicating honestly, hearing without selfishness as blinders, and continuing to appreciate each other for the commitment to the marriage.
Just as the poem at the top says.. despite childhood scars and adult wounds, we have found a love and connection where we can truly be ourselves, in both the ugly and beautiful truth of our realities.