I remember walking across the stage at my high school graduation to receive my diploma. Family members had flown in from out of state, my mother had a big dinner planned at our house afterward, and I had received so many awards and trophies that I needed help from two people to carry them all to the car. I was the darling of my family. I was the obedient, religious child. I was hand-picked at my academy to be part of an outreach team that visited sick people in their homes and hospitals on the weekends. Everyone expected great things of me and thought I was so great.
Those expectations followed me all through college. I served as a youth director at my church during undergrad and planned to go to medical school once I finished. To be honest, everyone’s high opinions of me eventually became part of me, and I began to think of myself as a golden child. I developed a high opinion of my morals and who I was as a person. It’s easy to put yourself on a pedestal when everyone else does it too.
All that changed when I got married. I began to see myself in a much different light. There were times when I would be upset with my husband, and storm off to our room to ignore his presence in the house for the next few hours. I didn’t cook him breakfast, or iron his shirt, or do anything that would be considered helping him out in any way. Or, sometimes when he would apologize, I’d still be cold towards him because I thought that if I “taught him a lesson” he’d be more careful not to repeat the same mistake next time.
When Jono was mad at me, it was a completely different story. He would still cook breakfast, wash my dirty dishes, and fold my laundry (and put it away for me too!). It baffled me, and made me feel ashamed of myself. It was really humbling. His actions were so different from mine that I had to finally accept the fact that deep inside I was selfish and vindictive.
I also realized how emotional of a person I was. So many of my decisions and words were based on my feelings in the moment. If I felt angry, I lashed out. If I felt hurt, I completely shut him out. I began to see more and more that I had a lot of growing to do. My attention began to shift from things I wanted my husband to work on, to what I needed to work on. When I did that, I saw myself becoming more patient with my husband’s flaws. I couldn’t expect him to change overnight when I was struggling myself.
At the same time, I also saw myself starting to become more transparent in my other relationships. See, it was easy for me to hide the less attractive parts of my character when I was around people who expected me to be a certain way. I got used to putting up a façade that hid my feelings when I was really hurt or angry. If one of my friends did something to me, I would just distance myself from them a little bit until I got over it, and then continued with the friendship.
My relationship with my husband was one of the few in my life where I didn’t ever bother to hide what I was really thinking and feeling. It was my first time being completely transparent and address things head-on.
My friends started saying things like, “Man, Jono rubbed off on you, you have a fresh mouth now,” or be really surprised when I would address issues directly. In reality I was just becoming more transparent and letting my thoughts be known.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: being in a relationship with someone is a reality check. It forces you to come face-to-face with the parts of yourself that you think you’re hiding from everyone else. When that happens, don’t get too discouraged. It’s a good thing!
A humbling view of your true character helps you be more intentional about becoming a better person; it also leads you to be more patient with other people’s flaws and less judgmental of their actions. The focus shifts from making the other person conform to your standards, to you trying to be the best version of yourself regardless of what the other person does. It’s not easy, but trust me when I say the growth that comes from it brings your relationships to a higher level in every way.
Being in a relationship also forces you to become more open about your own thoughts and feelings. Hopefully that openness transfers to the other relationships in your life, and enhances them as well.
Until next time!
P.S. Want more realness about marriage? More insights into what it's really about once you say "I do?"