Irreconcilable Differences, Part Two!
I received a lot of great feedback, both online and off, from my blog post about my husband and I’s irreconcilable differences. My own thinking on the subject deepened. It’s been exciting to see the great benefits for my marriage and family from what I’ve learned.
First though, I’d like to clarify that our marriage is great! In fact, the whole point of the post was to show couples, especially relatively new ones, or couples experiencing a lot of conflict, that we can live with our irreconcilable differences. Of course, some differences are too big to tolerate, such as abuse. However, for many of us, marriage offers a huge opportunity to grow precisely because of our differences. That has been my experience, and writing this post helped take me to another level of accepting Rob’s differences (more on that in a minute).
I want to share my experience with other couples in the hopes that I can help prevent some marriages from collapsing. With our society’s emphasis on romantic love, many couples believe that their partner is supposed to be a match in the same way that a jigsaw puzzle fits. However, that discounts the polishing process of marriage. Many great relationships start like Rob and I’s did, with infatuation followed by conflict and disillusionment. If we can find a way through the tough times, the relationship we want often lies on the other side.
The blog post inspired me to look at how I was modeling for our kids how to deal with people and our differences. I know that I have sometimes been positively ungracious. I hate to admit it, but I have at times done the adult equivalent of a sulk when Rob wouldn’t shut the water off while rinsing dishes, chose tv over a walk with me or wouldn’t eat veggies. As I wrote the post and interacted with people who commented on it, I realized that I could get to another level of accepting him for who he is, and allowing him to be on his own path in life. I believe as Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, that our children are meant to grow us up, and they inspired me to work on developing a better approach to Rob.
Here’s another technique that I’ve used to be more accepting of Rob over the years. I sometimes say to myself when he is being environmentally unfriendly, “Well, if we were apart he wouldn’t be any better. It is not my responsibility to look after his environmental footprint.” However, when I am bent on trying to change him, I forget all of my tools and get grumpy. Now with the reminder of what I want to model for my kids, I’m re-inspired to find the high road.
Stephen Covey talks about working within our sphere of influence. When we do that, our influence expands. That is exactly what seems to be happening here! Lately as I’ve backed off again and focused on accepting Rob, he seems to have shifted! The other day as he put some plastic bags in the recycling, he actually said to me that he needs to get some cloth shopping bags! I’ve caught him shutting off the water in between rinsing dishes. And he’s been wearing his seatbelt almost all the time, not just when we are on a longer trip.
Of course, this is a potentially double-edged sword. I could get caught up the fact that he is swinging my way, and start to push him to do more. However, I got the message loud and clear. If I want my kids to accept others and be kind despite their differences, I have to start with Rob and I at home. I need to accept him and treat him with respect even if I disagree with his behavior. If I keep doing that, I will be hugely rewarded, both through more influence from him, as well as through meeting a goal of mine with my kids. I want to raise tolerant, socially responsible children, and I can’t do that while being critical of their dad.