One Key for a Happier Marriage
Lucas and I got into a fight the other night over planning a vacation. He whipped out his laptop at 10 o’clock at night and started asking me questions about how much we should budget for food and I put my hands up and said , “Woah! It's late. I’m tired. I can’t do this right now.” He had been trying to figure out the details of this vacation for a while with me and I had avoided it every time. He said, “Okay, well don’t say I didn’t try…” and put the laptop under the bed before flopping on his side of the bed.
I got so irritated with myself in that moment because we'd seem to fight whenever we tried planning something fun to do. Date nights, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries — coming up with a plan for them is a nightmare situation I avoided like the plague. I tried to get to the root of why it'd always start a fight and I realized something: I just didn't want to be disappointed. Not by our plans changing or things going wrong, but by Lucas not showing up the way I hoped he would.
I felt my heart close up at the thought of him not reacting with the level of enthusiasm I wanted him to or expressing how much he was enjoying our time together just right. I didn't know how to handle it when he responded to things differently than I did.
I’ll never forget our first vacation together, our honeymoon, when I realized just how different we were. Lucas was in a terrible mood the. entire. time. He was also seasick so that didn’t help. I was convinced he was trying to sabotage the whole thing. He’d oblige to walking out onto the deck and just stand there expressionless.
We’d go down to the dining room and be served an elaborate dinner as the waiters (literally) danced it to our tables and Lucas wouldn’t crack a smile. I’d try to wake him up early to go whale watching with me and he’d roll over in a humph. So I watched whales at 6:30am with a man named Steven from Philadelphia sitting on the pool chair next to me.
What I didn’t realize then is that my newly wed husband wasn’t sabotaging our trip, he wasn’t even upset in the slightest. We just respond to things differently.
He is the most even keeled, no ups or downs person alive. We could be at home in our living room or at the heights of Mt. Everest and I’m pretty sure he’d have the same exact facial expression and say something like, “Cool.” But that’s just him! And it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him because I’m as neurotic as they come and desperately needed some stability. Living on a roller coaster of emotions is so normal to me that I thought anything other than extreme elation or depression were signs of a sociopath.
So how can we do life together even though we see the world so differently? How can we learn to enjoy experiences with each other when we respond in different ways? Here's the key:
Assume the best.
I've had to learn to assume the best of my husband all the time. Marriage isn't supposed to be mind reading school, watching every move and weighing every word with a critical eye trying to decipher the meaning behind them. We'll jump to the worst concolusion possible, we'll find a way to make it prove our suspition that they are not our side. I have to assume that he really does mean it when he says he’s happy to be with me even though his face looks like a potato (see ex. 1 & 2).
Isn't that what love is supposed to do? Love is called to "bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things," 1 Corinthians 13:7. I like how the Passion translation says it, "Love is a safe place for shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others." When I'm assuming the best of Lucas and choosing to let go of my expectations of him, I can be a safe place for shelter. And our marriage can be a place where there aren't performance requirements for there to be love and acceptance. Kind of sounds like unconditional love, right?
You know what happens when I let go of my expectations? We have so much fun together! I'm not watching his every move to figure out whether he's on my side or not. I assume the best. And I can be myself, I don't have to tone down my emotions because my husband can be as stoic as a monk. I can be my loud, dramatic, happy, rollercoaster self and when we're assuming the best of each other, we can delight in our differences. I don’t have to tone it down for him to love me. And he shouldn't have to amp it up for me to love him.
Lucas is hilarious and fun, just in a different way than me. I love being his partner in life and learning how we best work together. Its a process, no one is our perfectly fitting other half. We have to work at it, learn how to fill each others gaps, listen to each other and not assume we know what’s going on in each others heads.
With hard work, patience, and love, we're intentionally stepping up our vacation game. We're gonna travel the world together and have a great time doing it. Me with a huge smile on my face and Lucas with something a little less than a scow. Here’s to having an amazing life with you, potato face!
Enjoy some never before seen embarrassing pictures from our honeymoon!